Tribal FishCo and the White Salmon Fish Processing CenterJon Matthews, CRITFC Finance Director
CRITFC’s four member tribes founded Tribal FishCo, LLC in 2010 to operate and maintain the fish processing center located in White Salmon, Washington. The Corps of Engineers built the facility as a treaty fishing access site. With a federally compliant food processing facility, the tribes can take greater control of their natural resources by processing and marketing fish and accessing new markets. The tribes also want to ensure the business is self-sustaining and capable of meeting its cash flow needs and the needs of the markets.
Each of the tribes appointed two representatives to the Board of Advisors, which provides policy oversight to Tribal FishCo:
- Virgil Lewis, President, Yakama
- Ryan Smith, Vice-President, Warm Springs
- N. Kathryn Brigham, Secretary, Umatilla
- Roger Dick Jr, Member, Yakama
- Cecil Jose, Member, Nez Perce
- Marcus Luke Jr, Member, Umatilla
- Olney Patt Jr, Member, Warm Springs
- Allen Slickpoo Jr, Member, Nez Perce
FishCo hired Harris Teo (Yakama) as the Plant Manager to coordinate pilot tests in 2011and 2012. FishCo contracted with experienced seafood processors for both years to assist with cash flow and equipment needs. For this fall’s operations, FishCo hired 15 employees to process fish and one to provide bookkeeping functions. Ice was also provided by FishCo through a contract with CRITFC for the last two years. About one million pounds of ice was provided to the fishers, which also provided revenue to FishCo. CRITFC provided staff support and secured funding to complete a business plan and an engineering report, which will be used in the negotiation process for the user agreement with the City of Bingen to authorize discharges into their wastewater treatment system.
A limited fish processing operation was conducted in the fall 2012 to work through logistics of operating the processing plant. Information was also gathered for the Bingen wastewater agreement.
There are a number of activities for 2013 operations including finalizing the wastewater treatment system user agreement with the City of Bingen; reviewing capitalization needs for FishCo’s 2013 operations (e.g., cash, labor, equipment), and how to fund them; and securing support from each tribes’ respective tribal economic development personnel to help with business planning and the capitalization of the business. With proper planning, there is an opportunity for the four tribes to exert their sovereignty on their natural resources and at the same time increase the economic value of the treaty fisheries.