Blaine By The Sea

Semiahmoo Cannery

Salmon canning was once a roaring business here on the Semiahmoo Spit that brought many businesses to the spit over 130 years ago.

Whatcom County’s first cannery was opened in August of 1882 by James Tarte and John Martin in Semiahmoo under the name of “Tarte & Martin.” Soon, other canneries popped up in the area. By the 1890s, there was intense competition between operations, causing several to merge.

In 1891, Daniel Drysdale bought Tarte & Martin’s cannery. In February of 1893, 25 of 33 Alaska canneries banded together as the Alaska Packers Association, which bought out the Drysdale Cannery and the Wedhams Cannery at Point Roberts. 

Boxes of Canned Salmon lined up outside of a cannery on the Semiahmoo Spit
By 1909, the Blaine Journal listed only five canneries in Blaine: Ainsworth and Dunn, the Blaine Packing Company, JW and V Cook Packing Company, West Coast Packing Company, and the great Alaska Packers Association. The 1934 passing of Initiative 77 banning Puget Sound fish traps was a hard blow to the salmon-canning industry in Blaine, leading to the eventual end of operations for The Alaska Packers Association in the 1960s.

As a result of this ban, however, the smaller fishing outfits, which were unable to compete with the big cannery businesses, were now able to get back into business. Consequently, demand for harbor space at Blaine increased dramatically as fishermen searched for safe moorage close to the rich salmon fishing grounds off of Point Roberts.

The building currently belongs to the Semiahmoo Resort and Spa and is no longer in use.