The new fish plant is in the home stretch of completion, according to Caroline Wawzonek, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI).
Wawzonek gave an update on the Great Slave Lake Commercial Fishery in the legislative assembly on Monday, saying that the plant is now in the final stage of construction and commissioning.
“I can confirm that the building envelope is completed and all processing equipment is installed,” she said. “Plumbing, painting and electrical elements are being finalized, including freezers and filleting equipment.”
Wawzonek also said specialized technicians are setting up and calibrating processing equipment using various species from Great Slave Lake, and training for plant operators and fish processors is anticipated to begin soon.
A new plant has been talked about since 2014, when it was first proposed in the territory’s economic opportunities strategy back then. Then-Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann announced the plan to build a new plant in 2017. The GNWT announced $6.6 million from the federal government had been committed with $2.2 million from the territorial government toward the project. A soft ground-breaking on the building began in September 2021 and the goal was to have the plant operating by late 2022.
Arctic Canada Construction was contracted to build the plant, which is to be 1,600 sq. ft. in size. The total cost of the project is expected to be close to $15 million when considering the building and all of the equipment needed to be purchased.
Once the plant is operational, the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation will operate the plant for a three-year period, which Wawzonek will allow for training and capacity building with the intention that the facility will ultimately be run as an independent, Northern-based business.
Training programs were held in Hay River and Yellowknife this past March, with summer training programs scheduled in June for Hay River, Fort Resolution and Yellowknife.
“The program gives new fishers the skills and knowledge to have successful winter harvests and presents an opportunity to expand fishing operations year-round once fishers get established,” said Wawzonek.
Wawzonek also said the GNWT will continue to talk with the Tu’cho Fishers Co-operative; both sides have apparently identified a list of items around fish production and toward raising the price of fish for NWT fishers.