Surrey History Banner

BC Packers' Delta Oyster Company: BC Packers' Delta Oyster Company

Pictures courtesy of Jack Berry and Margaret Scott(nee Thompson)

British Columbia Packers is a very large integrated company that has operated in BC for generations. It had established oyster farms in Comox, Denman Island, and Desolation Sound. In 1941 BC Packers moved its oyster shucking plant to Delta at the foot of 112th Street. Boundary Bay and Mud Bay were productive oyster habitat and the Crescent Oyster Company had been operating in the area for many years. The location at the mouth of Oliver's Slough provided deep water at high tide and good road access via 112th Street.

BC Packers Delta Boxed oysters

Johnny Christopherson was a shift boss with the Crescent Oyster Company. In 1941 he became the manager of the Delta BC Packers' oyster plant. Ed Thompson joined Johnny that winter and they worked together until the plant closed in 1963.

The plant was located at the mouth of Oliver's Slough in Delta. The channel from Oliver's Slough provided some deep water but the location required dredging on a regular basis to provide access for tugs and barges.

Dredge and tug Dredge and pipe Dredge and boom

For 22 years BC Packers harvested oysters in Boundary Bay from 160 acres that extended from Mud Bay to Beach Grove. Initially the native BC oyster was harvested. However, after the native oyster was depleted, BC Packers seeded the Atlantic variety. Later they switched to the Japanese oyster, a species marked by its jagged white shell and large size. It took four years to grow an oyster to harvestable size.

Mud flats and channel Worker on the oyster beds

Barges would be pulled out and anchored over the oyster bed to be harvested. At low tide a gang of rakers would arrive to rake up the oysters and load them aboard the barge. Later, the Japanese oyster was so large that they could not be raked and had to be picked by hand. With the incoming tide the barge would be floated and hauled back to the processing plant.

The raking and shucking crew The raking and shucking crew

The raking and shucking crew at BC Packers Delta. Harry Smith is on the right in both pictures. Jack Berry Sr. is second from the right in the second picture.

Tug Off loading the oysters

Delta also became the processing center for oysters harvested from other locations.

Coastal Steamer Sea lion on a scow

Coastal steamers moved oyster stocks via barges from within Boundary Bay and from other locations such as Denman Island. Sea lions are using the barge as a resting place.

Two work boats

A variety of coastal steamers, tugs, barges, and work boats were vital to the Boundary Bay operation.

Oyster on a piling Oyster shuckers Hosing shells off the barge

The crew would then be put to work shucking the oysters in preparation for processing them. The oyster shell would be returned to the beds so that oyster seed could attach themselves to them.

BC Packers bought out the Crescent Oyster Company in 1957. The Boundary Bay operations were now centered at the Delta plant. Unfortunately a fire swept though the Delta Packing Plant in 1963.

Delta plant fire

The disastrous fire and the prospect of rebuilding came at an inopportune time. 1961 marked the first temporary closure of the fishery due to polluted run-off from the Serpentine and Nicomekl rivers. The licenses for the oyster operation in boundary Bay were pulled by the federal Fisheries Department in 1963 due to concerns about pollution, the result of animal and human sewage entering the Bay. The problem of deterioration of water quality, combined with trouble renewing its leases on the tidal flats, on top of the devastating fire, lead to the closure of the Delta operation in 1963.

B.C. Packers derelict buildings B.C. Packers derelict buildings

B.C. Packers derelict buildings at the foot of 112th Street. These pictures were taken in 1991. In 1995 the plant and pier were deemed unsafe and demolished. The last day of operations for BC Packers as a company was April 19, 1999.

Next Page: Endersby Hill Store

Return to Surrey's History INDEX

View My Stats