Skip to main content
Selecting a filter in the list will reload the page to display the results.
Up arrow icon



Typhoid outbreak in Steveston

From the late 1880s to early 1900s typhoid fever is common in Steveston and is linked to the disposal of fish waste (offal) from canneries. The Japanese community responds by building the Japanese Hospital in Steveston.

Single storey white building with a small porch situated behind a picket fence

Japanese Hospital, Steveston, BC. Image 1978 14 10 courtesy of the City of Richmond Archives.


Government limits fishing licenses

In 1889 the federal government decreases the number of fishing licenses in an attempt to reduce over-fishing. Some cannery owners build dummy canneries to obtain additional fishing licenses.

A man is tossing a fish from a skiff to the cannery floor. Skiff is labelled Dumfries No. 5.

Dumfries Cannery on the Fraser River, c. 1890s, Image CVA 256-02-.10 courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives


Wilmot Commissions of 1890 and 1892

Some of the first regulations in the fishing industry come from the Wilmot Commissions of 1890 and 1892. Government investigator Samuel Wilmot's extensive inquiries result in recommendations on boat and cannery limits, annual closures, and fishing net size. Before regulations were placed on the fishing industry, there were often hundreds of boats on the Fraser River at a time.

Several small fishing boats on the Fraser River. Text at the bottom of the image says: "926- Fishing fleet, Fraser River, B.C."

Fishing skiffs at the mouth of the Fraser River c. 1890s Image B-07395 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives


Largest sockeye salmon run

1913 is a dominant year of the sockeye salmon’s four-year cycle and more sockeye salmon return to the Fraser River than previously recorded. The huge run results in a commercial pack of 2,392,895 cases of canned salmon.

Cannery floor covered in salmon with butchering tables and workers in the background.

Salmon awaiting processing at a Fraser River cannery, 1913. Image E-05031 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives

Loose boulders and rocks cover the river bank and have slid into the river, making the river narrower.

Rock slide at Hells Gate 1914. Image A-04680 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives

Calendar Icon

Hells Gate Slide

Blasting to create the Canadian Northern (later the Canadian National) Railway line through the Fraser Canyon causes landslides at Hells Gate partially blocking the river and causing millions of returning salmon to die before spawning.

Learn Moreabout Hells Gate Slide

Steveston Fire

In 1918 a fire burns much of Steveston village from No 1 Road to No. 3 Road. The fire destroys three canneries, several residences and hotels, and good part of the retail district.

Expanse of burnt pilings stretch along the waterfront with cannery buildings in the background.

Charred pilings of the Lighthouse, Steveston and Star Canneries after the fire of 1918, with the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in the background. Image 1971-1-242 courtesy City of Richmond Archives


The Pacific Salmon Treaty is ratified

The first formal salmon agreement between Canada and the United States is a convention for the protection, preservation and extension of the sockeye salmon fishery of the Fraser River system signed in 1930 and ratified in 1937.

Black and white photograph of seven men sitting around a long table.

The original members of the International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission. From left to right: Edward W. Allen, William A. Found, A. J. Whitmore, B. M. Brennan, T. Reid, A. L. Hager, Charles E. Jackson. Image courtesy of Pacific Salmon Commission


Fish ladders are built at Hells Gate

Cement ladders are built to make it easier for salmon to pass the narrowest section of the Fraser River. The ladders reduce the speed of the current within the structures making it easier for spawning salmon to reach their spawning grounds.

two men with are working on the platform of a fish ladder

Construction of fish ladder at Hells Gate. City of Richmond Archives 2001-34-9-672


Rockslide at Babine Channel

Already in decline, the canneries on the Skeena River are impacted when a natural rockslide blocks the Babine River in 1951. The rockslide is discovered too late to clear before the arrival of the Sockeye salmon on this important tributary to the Skeena River. An estimated two-thirds of the year's sockeye runs are lost.

Photo taken from a plane showing the path of Babine Channel cutting through treed landscape with a rockslide visible on the left side of the river.

Aerial view of Babine slide, 1951. Image 199003-004 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives


Tripartite agreement signed

An agreement is forged between Japan, the United States, and Canada to manage Pacific Salmon fish stocks in their respective countries.

Newspaper clipping with image of the Tripartite Agreement negotiations. Headline reads "After dinner at Canada's Legation in Tokyo," with the caption "Left to right, the Hon. R. W. Mayhew, Prime Minister Yoshida of Japan, William Herrington, head of the United States delegation, and Sadao Iguchi, member of the Japanese delegation and Vice-minister for Foreign Affairs."

Newspaper clipping showing government officials from Japan, Canada and the U.S.A. negotiating the Tripartite agreement in 1953. Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society Archives (from the Fisherman Newspaper).


First artificial salmon spawning channel built

The International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission conducts studies of fish spawning success rates at its Quesnel Field Station in the early 1950’s. The Canadian Department of Fisheries builds the first artificial spawning channel in 1954 at Jones Creek for pink salmon. Five sockeye spawning channels are built between 1963 and 1973 at Pitt River, Seton Creek, Weaver Creek, Gates Creek and the Nadina River.

An artificial channel winds back and forth to increase spawning area

Weaver Creek spawning channel,


Pacific Salmon Treaty is ratified

In 1985, Canada and the United States sign the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The agreement provides a framework for the two countries to work together to manage Pacific salmon. It outlines ways to share the resource, prevent over-fishing, and ensure that both countries profit from the industry. The Pacific Salmon Treaty is the first comprehensive treaty between Canada and the United States that includes all 5 species of pacific salmon. The treaty establishes a Pacific Salmon Commission. The commission is made up of members from both Canada and the US and continues to be an important way for the two countries to communicate and cooperate.

Pacific Salmon Commission logo featuring a salmon and the coastline of North America

Pacific Salmon Commission logo