This year Neptune celebrates over 35 years in business in Ucluelet. Many generations of Ucluelet’s families and fishermen have worked with us and many of the town’s oldest families youth earned summer wages that carried them to new careers.
I originally arrived in what was a sleepy fishing village as a troll fisherman on my way to Alaska in 1969. After returning often to Ucluelet while fishing, I worked for McCallum Sales as fishbuyer at what is now a fuel dock. In the mid-70s I was asked by Babcock Fisheries to construct and operate Ucluelet’s largest freezer plant near the village center. I operated this plant for the Central Native Fishermen’s Co-op employing families locally and from all Nuu-chah-nulth communities on the West Coast.
In the late 1970s I purchased Mr. Brown’s house between the Co-op fish plant and Eric Larsen Diesel. After receiving consent of Council and planning, we built the largest ice storage in Ucluelet and a new generation dock made of durable, pre-cast concrete rather than of wood.
We began unloading vessels for fishermen as a new service. This changed the Harbour and attracted even more production and vessels to all services and businesses.
As we became known for our family-based personal service, quality flake ice, and good fish prices we quickly became the largest fresh troll buyer on the West Coast of the island, competing with B.C.’s largest companies.
In the peak Sockeye years over 300 trollers would make deliveries, forming long relationships that last to this day. I eventually built three other ice plants on Vancouver Island, all of which are operating today. I volunteered on the Ucluelet Harbour commission with many local fishermen and elders seeking to protect waterfront paths and walkways for future generations. Together with now Member of Parliament John Duncan, we prepared a successful presentation to Wharves Canada that resulted in an approval for the expansion of the inner boat basin that has greatly assisted today’s fishing and tourism for all.
I also represented the West Coast on the Pacific Salmon Commission the National Roundtable on the Environment, and various boards and advisories as a volunteer for our communities.
I and my then-wife Linda were also active volunteers on the “salad days” of the Ucluelet Recreation commission and many great Ukee Days events. During this time, a small community without a large stage was able to pack the old Rec Hall by building a stage out of fish boxes and matting from the pulp rollers. Big musical attractions such as the Victoria Symphony and folk singer Valdy entertained all in a small community that was off the path.
These were fun times in our small community and we were able to raise our three children in a village where no one locked their doors.
Neptune, as the largest ice producer on the West Coast, has weathered the changes in the fishing industry and continues to contribute substantially to the village’s economy directly and indirectly.
Neptune has contributed millions of dollars to local workers, businesses and to fishermen. Local families from both Itatsoo, Ucluelet and other villages have formed the core of employees, that along with their fishermen have raised families around this local business. Neptune’s first employee, grader Henry Marshall, still works at the plant.
Ucluelet, with its excellent harbour and facilities remains the largest fish landing port on the West Coast. Although fishing has changed, it still is a vital pillar of Ucluelet’s economy and Neptune has changed with the times and continues to invest in Ucluelet.
Today , the plant is managed by the Farrington fishing family, by owner-manager Crystal Farrington and this still remains the longest family-run fishing business in
Ucluelet. This year as part of “West Coast Fishing Heritage” days Neptune plans to celebrate their history with the employees, neighbours and fishermen whose work , friendship, and loyalty made Neptune a business that will continue to thrive in our diverse community.
I am grateful to our village and all that have supported us over the years and we look forward to celebrating Ucluelet’s fishing heritage in our 35th continuous year.
Roy Alexander co-founded Neptune with his partners Norm Goble and Marc Noel. He currently lives in Parksville,B.C. with his wife Karen.