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The glossary defines some of the terms used on From Tides to Tins to describe the salmon canning industry.


the action of merging or combining two or more canneries under the ownership of a single company.


a large metal furnace-like vessel used to heat water to produce steam. In canneries, steam from boilers was used to power machinery before electric power was used.
cannery housing provided to single workers. Housing was segregated by gender and ethnicity.
the process of removing the heads, tails, and internal organs of a fish. Sometimes called cleaning. See “offal”.
Butcher gang:
a group of Chinese contract labourers who cleaned and butchered fish on a manual canning line.


Can loft:
storage area for unfilled cans, often located on the second floor of a cannery.
a short name for the Canadian Fishing Company – a major fish processing company in British Columbia that was founded in 1906, purchased by the Pattison Group in 1984, and still in operation in 2017.
a processing plant where fish is unloaded, cleaned, butchered, cut, canned, and cooked.
Canning line:
an assembly line for butchering, washing, packing, weighing, sealing, and cooking, cans filled with product, either by hand or by machinery.
a machine on an automated canning line that placed lids onto filled cans.
the storage unit for filled cans that held either 96 half-pound cans or 48 one-pound cans.
Caustic soda:
in the early days of canning, an alkaline (basic) chemical solution that was brushed onto each can after cooking to remove any grease or grime before labels were attached to the cans; also see “lye”.
Chinese contract system:
a labour system used widely in canneries until the mid-1930s where a Chinese contractor agreed to supply a labour gang of men in exchange for a piece-work sum of money per can.
Chinese contractor:
a person who negotiated directly with the cannery owner on behalf of the Chinese contract crew that the contractor hired, supervised, and paid. Also called the “China Boss”.
a piece of machinery that loosely secured a lid onto the edge of a can.
Cohen Commission:
a commission of inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River conducted between 2009 and 2012 led by Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen.
Collapsed can:
a factory-made can whose body and ends were cut to size in a factory but sent to a cannery flat and unassembled.
Collector boat:
a boat used to collect fish from a fleet of fishing boats eliminating the need for the fishing boats to return to the cannery with their catch.
Commercial fishery:
fishing for commercial profit.
the automated conveyor belt system of moving goods along a mechanized production line.
an organization that is owned and run jointly by its members who share in the profits of the business.
a machine used to attach the bottom of a sanitary can to the can body. The crimper was replaced by the clincher.


a small shark with dorsal spines. The Pacific spiny dogfish (Squalus suckleyi) is found in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
Dominant year:
a feature of salmon stocks where one run has a predictably larger return than the other years in the cycle. For example, sockeye have a 4-year life cycle and 2014 was a dominant year for the Adams River run, so 2018, 2022, and 2026 etc. will also be dominant runs. The number of sockeye returning to the Adams River in other years will be less than in the dominant years.
Double seamer:
a machine that fastened the lids of the sanitary cans after the air had been removed from the can. Used on canning lines until the introduction of the vacuum closing machine in the 1920s.
Dummy cannery:
a cannery that was built to obtain additional fishing licenses with no intention of using the cannery for canning operations.


Easthope Marine Engines:
a company founded in Vancouver in 1900 that became one of the first and best producers of two-cylinder, gas-powered marine engines used in fishing vessels on the west coast of B.C.
Exchange economy:
a trade system where goods are exchanged for other goods or for money.
Exhaust box:
a box approximately 25-feet long, 8-feet wide, and heated with steam that the cans of salmon moved through seven times on a chain-type conveyor belt to remove the air from cans before they were sealed.


a cannery worker on a manual canning line who packed fish into cans.
Filling machine:
part of an automated canning line; a machine that mechanically packed salmon into cans at a rate of 75 to 115 cans per minute.
Fish camp:
a floating or shore-based location where fishermen could unload their fish into a scow and have their catch recorded by a tally man.
Fish escalator:
a conveyor system with wooden baskets or trays attached to an endless chain, used to carry fish from a boat up into the cannery.
Fish ladder:
a cement structure built in 1944 in the Fraser Canyon to assist spawning salmon to pass through the turbulent waters of Hells Gate. Also called fishways.
Fish stock:
a group of fish of the same species that live in the same geographic area.
Fish trap:
pilings enclosed with wire net used to funnel salmon into underwater pens; used by US canneries in Washington State until 1934 and in Alaska until 1960; banned in Canada in 1877.
Fisheries Act:
Federal government legislation enacted in B.C. in 1878 that regulates commercial, sport, and Indigenous fishing.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada:
A department of the federal government responsible for protecting and managing all of Canada’s ocean and freshwater resources.
Fishing license:
a government-issued fishing permit.
Flash freezing:
the process of quickly freezing a product. In the fishing industry this refers to freezing the fish on a fishing boat to maximize freshness and remove the need to return to port quickly.
a substance used with solder to fuse metals together.
Fraser River Canners Association:
an organization formed in 1900 by a group of cannery owners on the Fraser River to work together to protect their interest against cannery workers and fishermen.
a member of the British regiment armed with a musket. The Sockeye Fusiliers or “Sixth Regiment of the Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles” were based in Vancouver and were present in Steveston during the strike of 1900.


Gang knives:
a machine that was part of the automated assembly line in a cannery that sliced cleaned fish into can-sized pieces. The first models were operated by a hand lever and known as cutting machines.
a type of net with a line of floats on the top and a weighted lead line on the bottom so that it hangs vertically in the water. Fish swim part way though the net before their gills get caught in the webbing trapping the fish until the net is hauled in.
Gillnet drum:
a mechanically or hydraulically powered horizontal spool which is used to set and haul in a gillnet.
Grand Truck Pacific Railway:
Connects Prince Rupert with the rest of Canada through Winnipeg. Completed in 1914.


a place where people assist with the breeding, hatching, and rearing of young fish to increase the abundance of the species.
Head Tax:
a fixed fee charged to Chinese people entering Canada between 1900 and 1923, set at $50 in 1900 and increasing to $500 in 1904.
Hells Gate:
the narrowest part of the Fraser River, located near Boston Bar in the southern Fraser Canyon.
Hydraulic suction pump:
a method for loading or unloading fish from a vessel whereby fish are transported through a hose using positive pressure (the pressure within the system is greater than the environment that surrounds it).


Indian Reserve:
a tract of land belonging to the Crown that has been designated for the use and benefit of a First Nations band.
International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission (IPSFC):
Formed in 1937, the IPSFC was a group of individuals from Canada and the United states who worked together to protect and preserve the sockeye salmon fishery on the Fraser River. Twenty years later, a protocol governing pink salmon was added. the IPSFC was dissolved in 1985 and replaced by the Pacific Salmon Commission after the Pacific Salmon Treaty was signed.
Iron butcher:
introduced to most canneries after 1906, this machine removed the heads, tails, fins and entrails of the fish. It replaced roughly 30 Chinese workers with only three operators. When it was first introduced it could process 60-75 fish per minute.


Japanese Fishermen’s Benevolent Society:
an organization of Japanese fishermen formed in 1900 that acted like a union, helping to set fair prices for fish, raise money to build a school, and open Richmond, B.C.’s first hospital. The society dissolved in 1942.
Japanese internment:
in February 1942, the Canadian government ordered the removal all people of Japanese descent from within 165 kilometres of the Pacific coast as a reaction to the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan. Evacuees were not permitted to return to the coast until 1949, 5 years after the Second World War ended.


a layer of liquid resin, cellulose, or other material used to provide a clear protective coating.
a concentrated alkaline (basic) substance of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide also known as caustic soda used for cleaning cans of salmon prior to cooking.


a person who operates or repairs machines; now more commonly referred to as a mechanic.
by hand, using human effort or energy.
to introduce machinery into a process, especially to replace manual labour.


the waste parts of fish including heads, fins, and internal organs not used in canning.


Pacific Salmon Commission:
a regulatory body run jointly by the Canadian and United States governments with the purpose of protecting stocks of the five species of Pacific salmon.
Pacific Salmon Treaty:
an agreement signed in 1985 between the United States and Canada outlining the use and conservation of salmon stocks.
the total amount of canned salmon produced in one year at a single cannery, a group of canneries, or all canneries operating in that year.
a vessel for transporting fish along the coast; may use ice or have a refrigeration system for cooling sea water in the hatch to keep fish fresh until it reaches its destination.
Panama Canal:
a waterway constructed across the Isthmus of Panama that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Built by the United States between 1904 and 1914.
a worker on a canning line who corrected underweight cans by adding small pieces of fish by hand to bring them to the correct weight. A Patcher also trimmed overweight cans with a small pair of sharp scissors.
Patching table:
an area where underweight cans were manually filled to capacity.
a long wooden pole with a single metal tine or point used to transfer fish from the hold of a boat to fish bins by hooking the fish through the gills. Also known as a pike.
poles used to create stable foundations for structures on land and over water.
name for the men who unloaded or sorted the fish using a peugh (or pike).


Receiving floor:
The water-facing entrance of a cannery where the fish is unloaded before it is sorted or processed further.
the process of rendering a product into its component parts; to produce fish oil and fish meal from whole fish or offal.
Reduction Plant:
a processing plant where a product is rendered into its component parts.
Reform line:
a set of machines used to shape and assemble collapsed cans.
a large pressure cooker used to cook tinned salmon using steam heat. It replaced the steam box on canning lines in the 1870s.


Salmon (Pacific):
an anadromous fish species meaning they begin their lives in freshwater, migrate to the ocean where they mature, and then return to the freshwater streams where they were born to spawn and die. The canning industry in BC focused on five species of Pacific salmon:
– Chinook:
(Oncorhynchus shawytscha) – also known as spring salmon – the largest species of Pacific salmon, (up to 50 kg). They are the first to return to freshwater in the spring on their way to their spawning grounds.
(Oncorhynchus keta) – also known as dog salmon – was the least desirable for canning because of the low oil content of the flesh.
– Coho:
(Oncorhynchus kisutch) – have the third highest level of fat after sockeye and chinook and are favoured by sports fishers.
– Pink:
(Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) – also known as humpback salmon – the smallest and most abundant variety of Pacific salmon, the flesh of the pink salmon is lighter and softer than other varieties of salmon.
– Sockeye:
(Oncorhynchus nerka) – the preferred species of salmon for canning. Because they spend 4 years in the ocean sockeye have the firmest, oiliest, and reddest flesh of the Pacific salmon.
a fish processing plant that uses salt to preserve fish.
Sanitary can:
a type of can introduced in 1913 that used lead solder only to seal the side seam of the can body. The top and bottom of the sanitary cans were crimped on by double seamer machines without the use of acid or solder. The introduction of the sanitary can made soldering after the can was filled unnecessary.
a flat-bottomed barge with broad square ends used primarily for transporting bulk materials.
Seine net:
used either from a boat or from the shore, a seine net hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. Fish are trapped inside the circle when the two ends of the net are brought together. Purse seines are a type of seine where the bottom of the net is pulled closed after the two ends have been brought together, enclosing a school of fish within the net.
employee who work in fish plants unloading, grading, processing, packaging, and shipping fish products.
a small boat powered by oar and/or sail, later powered by a motor.
Fraser River skiff:
a small flat-bottomed, double-ended, two-person boat used for gillnet fishing in the protected waters of the Fraser River. Used by most Fraser River canneries in the early- and mid-1870s. Fishermen would return to the canneries daily with their catch.
Columbia River skiff:
a round-bottomed, double-ended boat built originally for the Columbia River and adopted by Fraser River canneries when fishing extended further into the Strait of Georgia by the late-1870s.
a worker, usually female, who washed butchered fish using a small knife or spoon to remove any remaining scales, blood vessels, and fins.
a fusible metal alloy used to join metal pieces, such as lead solder used to attach a can lid to a can body.
Soldering iron:
a tool used for applying solder to metals that are to be joined.
Soldering machine:
a manually operated machine that dripped flux onto each can, shaped the can under the pressure of a lever, and rolled the can through hot solder to seal the can. Used before the invention of the sanitary can.
Spawning channel:
a section of river preferred by salmon for spawning. Artificial spawning channels are purpose-built gravel spawning beds with a controlled flow of water to provide ideal spawning conditions.
the Halq’eméylem word for the Fraser river and also the name of the group of First Nations bands traditionally living in the Fraser Valley and Lower Fraser Canyon of B.C.


a worker who recorded the number, species, and weight of fish as they were unloaded from fishing boats.
a boat used to collect fish from skiffs at the fishing grounds and transport the fish back to the processing plant. Also used to tow fishing boats to and from the fishing grounds.
Tin plate:
a thin sheet of iron or steel coated with tin to prevent rusting often used in the construction of cans for canning.
Typhoid fever:
an infection caused by Salmonella bacteria and spread by contaminated food or water.


an organization of workers formed to advocate for and protect the rights and interests of its members.
United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (UFAWU):
the union formed in 1945 to represent fishermen and shoreworkers.


Vacuum sealer:
part of the automated canning line this machine removed the air from and sealed cans within a vacuum chamber. It replaced steam boxes and double seamers. Also called the Vacuum Closer Machine.


Weighing machine:
part of the automated canning line, this machine weighs each full can and automatically removes underfilled cans from the production line.
the use of space or the fee charged for using space at a wharf for the loading, unloading, and storage of goods.