Alaska Sea Grant helps get new fish plant rolling

welcome to Hydaburg sign

Photo courtesy KRBD

A new fish plant opened this month in Hydaburg, a village in Southeast Alaska trying to revive its seafood industry.

Haida Wild Alaska Seafood is located in a former cold storage that hasn’t operated in nearly three decades but is now bustling with activity as the commercial fishing season goes into full swing. Hydaburg is Alaska’s largest community of Haida tribal members. About 400 people live in the coastal Prince of Wales Island village, surrounded by the Tongass National Forest.

“As soon as the trollers come in, we’re ready,” said plant manager Jess Dilts in an interview with Alaska Sea Grant.

The plant is about 7,000 square feet, he said. The Hydaburg Cooperative Association and the City of Hydaburg, who own the plant, hope to eventually include a retail section and smokery.

outside of a fish plant

Photo by Chris Sannito.

Dilts flew to Kodiak in recent months to receive training and certification from Alaska Sea Grant in safe food handling practices and sanitation. The training was held at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

“It was very valuable,” Dilts said. “The last time I was in the seafood industry was in 1989, 1990. We didn’t have all these regulations that we have now.”

Chris Sannito, Alaska Sea Grant seafood quality specialist, helped Dilts through the process of gaining the required paperwork. One of the federal requirements was a HACCP plan, a management system to reduce safety hazards from handling raw food. (HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point.)

“I was one of the lead consultants on the project. They reached out to Sea Grant for help in writing the HACCP and sanitation plans and kind of figuring out the process and flow of opening a fish plant,” said Sannito.

Sannito visited Hydaburg on two occasions to help install sanitation equipment and offer his expertise.

a row of about 7 totems

Haida totem poles in a local carving shed. Photo by Chris Sannito.

“They’re going to be doing mainly troll-caught salmon. It’s a very nice plant,” said Sannito.

Depending on the volume of salmon that trollers offload at the plant, fish will either be flown to Seattle from an airport in the neighboring community of Klawock, or it’ll go on a freezer container by ferry to Ketchikan and from there to Seattle.

Haida Wild Alaska Seafood is working with a broker in Seattle who will take it from there.

“He has markets in Boston, Denver, Oregon, and some other places,” Dilts said.  “We’re ready to go.”

Read KRBD’s recent story “New fish plant to bring traffic, jobs to Hydaburg.”