Vancouver Island fish plants left in a lurch by BC labour shortage

Vancouver Island fish plants left in a lurch by BC labour shortage

WATCH: B.C.’s jobless rate is the lowest in Canada, and the labour shortage is now impacting Vancouver Island’s fishing industry. As Skye Ryan reports as the season heats up, fish plants are scrambling to find workers with no way of putting off the incoming waves of fish headed here.

Processing hake by the tonne had fish plant workers in constant motion in French Creek Monday.

“The fish keep coming they don’t wait for us,” said Brad McLean, Owner of French Creek Seafood.

“It’s fun,” said worker Phil Harris.

“It’s not for everyone. It’s a stinky and tough job physically.”

As the fishing season comes alive on the West Coast, there is a shortage of workers like French Creek Seafood has never seen before.

“You just can’t find the workforce now,” said McLean.

“The other fish plants that I know about are really struggling… out on the west coast where this fish is going to, this weekend they had to shut down one of their shifts because they couldn’t get enough workers,” said McLean.

With the herring run just weeks away, there’s a real urgency to fill the jobs.

“We’re looking for probably 25 people,” said McLean.

“We’re bringing people over from Vancouver. We’ve got some motorhomes that we’re going to be setting up so they can have living conditions,” said McLean.

“It’s crazy you know. you thought with the oilfields slowing down that there’d be people around to work but I don’t know where they’re at. We can’t find any labour.”

B.C. leads the country in employment and that’s stiff competition since Canada’s unemployment rate has dropped to a 43 year low.

It means jobs like the tough, physical and seasonal jobs in the fishing industry are feeling the shortage perhaps worse than anywhere.

“The last couple of years is the worst we’ve ever seen it,” said McLean.

What this will all mean for the upcoming fishing season is unclear since the depth of the labour shortage is uncharted water.

So with waves of fish returning to B.C.’s coast within weeks, the question for many within the fishing industry is will there be enough hands to harvest them.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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