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Nitinat Cannery

Steam rising from the buildings of the Nitnat Cannery.

Nitinat Cannery, 1929, Image BC_1532_1369_009 courtesy of UBC Special Collections

Nitinat was a successful cannery for a decade but was forced to close when over-fishing caused a shortage of the once abundant Chum salmon in the area.


48°40’36.3″N 124°51’03.8″W

The Nitinat Cannery began canning in 1917 and in its first year, it canned the second largest amount of salmon in B.C., and in 1918 they produced the largest pack of all B.C. canneries.

The Nitinat River area was one of the richest areas for chum salmon on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The ease with which fishermen could bring in salmon meant that fish would often rot in the holding bins before it could be processed.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada noted the problem of over-fishing in 1918 but didn’t intervene until 1921. By that time the fish stocks had collapsed, and the cannery closed due to lack of fish.

The cannery was purchased by Nitinat Packers in 1924, then by Gosse Packing Co. in 1927, and finally by BC Packers Ltd. in 1928. None of these attempts to re-open the cannery were successful over the long-term, and the plant was permanently closed in 1931.

In 1918 a tragedy occurred when a packer was wrecked trying to cross the sandbar at the Nitinat Narrows and 13 of the 26 cannery workers on board drowned.

Large barge being towed by a second vessel. Treed shoreline in the background.

Bonilla towing barge containing 5,000 cases of chum salmon from Nitinat, October 1923. Inscription reads “First in the pack.” Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society Archives 2010.020.005