Sooke once had a cannery.

Sooke once had a cannery.

Sooke once had a salmon cannery

Elida Peers, Sooke's historian writes about cannery which was once on Maple Avenue

Many of us have celebrated the rains that raised the water in the rivers, allowing the homecoming salmon to flap, twist, and thrash their way frantically to reach the higher levels, instinctively searching for beds to spawn.

The ritual that takes place each fall is attracting viewers to the banks of turbulent creeks and rivers to watch the salmon and perhaps as well catch glimpses of the bears that have been gathering for their annual feast to fatten up for winter.

Soon the eagles and seagulls will follow for the pickings. A residue of rotting carcasses, their odour permeating the scene, will gradually recede again as the organic materials are absorbed by nature to provide nutrients for the following generations.

Engrossed as we are in this cycle, and aware of the importance of the salmon to First Nations, to sports anglers, to charter fishermen and commercial fishermen, many readers may be unaware of another facet – the local salmon canning industry.

The waterfront photo shows the scene at the foot of Maple Avenue in 1919, with the cannery building of Sooke Harbour Canning Company framed by pile drivers. The assembly system processed the salmon into cans and utilized pressurized steam for cooking.

An earlier cannery building stood at the foot of Murray Road in 1904, established by J. H. Todd & Sons, the industry magnate that initiated the fishtraps operations on this coast. When a Port Townsend group of fishtraps entrepreneurs moved to Sooke in 1918 to tap into the prolific runs coming down the Strait, it took but a few years before the two business giants joined together to form Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Company.

It was this conglomerate that continued the annual placing of the fishtraps and the lifts into the packers until declining salmon runs determined the traps’ closure in 1958. Economics had dictated moving the cannery into Esquimalt years earlier, and the Empire Cannery that stood at the end of Halliwell Road was one of the destinations for salmon lifted from the traps by the Sooke operations.

Though using a different process nowadays, Sooke for the past two decades has had a fish-processing plant that is also classed by government regulation as a cannery. Through a thermal processing method, pouches of salmon are produced here on Goodridge Road, for shipping anywhere in the world.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wild Wise Sooke is pushing to get local waste management companies to hop on board to provide bear-resistant bins as an option for residents. On Nov. 23, Sooke council voted to write a letter of support for Wild Wise to send to companies such as GFL Environmental Inc. and Sooke Disposal Ltd. (Black Press Media file photo)
Wild Wise Sooke continues push for bear-resistant bins as option for residents

Bins could cost anywhere from $150 to $300 or more, according to 2019 study

The Sooke Christmas Bureau, which serves over 400 hampers to families and residents in need, has extended their deadline to include anyone in need that has missed their Dec. 1 cutoff. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke Christmas Bureau extends deadline for hampers

Non-profit group says monetary donations goes further than non-perishables

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Four new COVID-19 cases added to Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak

Inital round of patient testing is complete, staff testing continues

The District of Sooke is another step closer to approving its 2021 financial plan. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Pandemic uncertainty looms over Sooke municipal budget

Council trims property tax increase to 3.3 per cent

The Sooke Santa Run will feature their youngest members as Santas, an annual tradition for the firefighters in Sooke, East Sooke, Shirley and Otter Point. The drive-by event takes place throughout the Sooke neighbourhood on Dec. 12. (File - Sooke News Mirror)
No one outside fire hall allowed to help volunteer for Sooke Santa Run

Drive-by event takes place on Dec. 12, with goal to raise $15,000

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Watch Messiah at home with the Sooke Philharmonic

Concert available to stream Dec. 12

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read