Port Heiden anticipates its tribally owned processing center will handle up to 10,000 pounds of salmon per day from May to September, providing local fishermen an opportunity to fish shoulder seasons closer to home.
There are still stacks of construction materials inside the two-story industrial building that the Native Village of Port Heiden hopes will soon be an operational fish processing center. The village’s target to finish renovations and install freezers is summer 2018.
The Meshik Processing Center, a project that has been in the works for several years, is funded largely through the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation and through the village itself.
“The hope is that we can have a longer fishing season that’s not as hectic, and the hope is that we can pay our fishermen a higher and more fair [price] per pound for their fish and that our workers get paid a decent amount and that those dollars will stay in Port Heiden,” said Adrianne Christensen, a consultant for the village.
With six to eight workers, Christensen anticipates the plant will be able to process 10,000 pounds per day at maximum capacity. They are marketing the fish within the United States.
Currently the handful of permit holders from Port Heiden mostly fish in Ugashik for a month during peak sockeye season. The goal of the Meshik Processing Center is to run from May to September, providing a local market for fishermen during shoulder seasons.
Jimmy Christensen is one of the commercial fishermen looking forward to being on the water longer and closer to home. He used to fish silvers from Port Heiden over a decade ago when more frequent air freight service allowed him to ship fish out more easily.
“We used to get anywhere between 20 and 40 thousand pounds a piece of silvers. That’s a big income per person for a village, and now we don’t have it. So this would be a big improvement for us,” said Jimmy Christensen.
It will be several years, Adrianne Christensen said, before the processing center turns a profit. When it does, the proceeds from the tribally owned business will go toward services for the Port Heiden community.
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