A former Port Alberni resident involved in the fishing business is set to breathe new life into the city’s waterfront.
The Port Alberni Port Authority has signed a lease with Victoria’s Independent Seafood Canada Corporation for use of PAPA’s No. 1 shed, company spokesperson Tracy Ronlund said.
“There’s a good feeling and a good culture there. It’s familiar, and familiar is good,” said Ronland, who was born and raised in Port Alberni.
“And Port Alberni raises good fishermen.”
The company took possession of the 9,000 square-foot shed in February. The facility will be used to offload 720,000 pounds of fish from the company’s trawler, as well as to store packing materials and vessel equipment.
The 44-metre trawler Raw Spirit is enroute from Iceland where it underwent modifications to its processing facility, freezer and cold storage and should be here mid-March.
The vessel will fish hake, pollock and flounder. It will head out for its first catch at the end of March and will unload every 10 days afterward, Ronlund said.
Ronlund credits business partner Kelly Anderson, who also owns a fishing vessel, with initiating the move.
“He worked in Port Alberni for six months before he moved to Vancouver and his crews were always from Port. He’s a big promoter of the town,” Ronlund said.
The move is a good investment and makes good business sense, she added. “If the vessel is based in Alberni then the crews will be more productive and it’s also supporting the local community,” she said.
Where there’s one fishing vessel there are others, city economic development officer Pat Deakin said.
“We hope that once they re-locate that others will look to move their boats here,” Deakin said. “This could be the beginning of Port Alberni rebuilding the number of fishing vessels that operate out of here.”
The initiative is expected to generate 15 jobs on the vessel plus shore jobs and economic spinoffs, Deakin said.
Lots of leg work was done in the two years it took to assemble the deal, Deakin said.
Moorage issues had to be resolved with the PAPA. Procedures around unloading fish to trucks had to satisfy the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
But a key element in the deal was the addition of the floating breakwater to the waterfront. “It demonstrated that there is commitment to improve the waterfront,” Deakin said.
Ronlund is no stranger to Port Alberni or to fishing.
She was born and raised in the Alberni Valley and graduated from Alberni District Secondary School in 1989. Her father, grandfather and uncle were all fishermen, she said. She worked as a deckhand with several of the family-owned vessels.
Ronlund went to the University of Victoria after high school, earning a commerce degree in 1995.
She worked for a seafood broker then for Port Fish Seafoods, where she helped establish the company’s payroll, inventory and vendor accounts.
Ronlund left Port Fish in 1996 and worked for Fisher Bay Seafoods in Victoria for 15 years. She and business partner Theresa Williams purchased the company in 2008.