Wales Island Cannery's story is unique because it began as an American cannery and became a Canadian cannery when the border was established.
1902-1903, 1910-1931, 1934-1949
The Wales Island Cannery was built in 1902 and operated by an American company on Pearse Canal, which was part of Alaska at the time. In 1903, when the border between Canada and the United States was settled, the cannery ended up on the British Columbia side of the border and was closed. In 1910 Canadian company Merrill DesBrisay and Co. purchased the cannery. This company had owned Hidden Inlet Cannery which ended up on the American side of the border after the 1903 negotiations.
DesBrisay and Co. completed extensive upgrades to the buildings and pilings, as well as several mechanical updates. By 1923 the cannery had two canning lines consisting of one iron butcher, two gang knives, two filling machines, and four steam heated retort ovens. The Canadian Fishing Co. bought the cannery in 1925 and operated it until 1931. The plant reopened in 1934 and when it closed in 1949 it was the last salmon cannery on the Nass River.
The Wales Island Cannery is also of note for its use of fish traps in 1925 and 1926. Most canneries in B.C. were not allowed to employ this method, but traps were permitted because of the cannery’s proximity to Alaska where traps were legal at the time.