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Beautiful old salmon boat may have permanent home outside city hall

Delta Fishing Heritage Society has been restoring for five years
John Stevens with the Persian Fisher, a classic Fraser River gillnetter.

The elegant lines of the Persian Fisher are apparent even from the photos, which explains why the Delta Fishing Heritage Society wants the beautiful boat to be on permanent display outside city hall.

The 35-foot salmon gillnetter has been in the process of restoration for the past five years and is about half complete.

“Most of the exterior is done,” said society president John Stevens.

The Persian Fisher was believed to have been built in the 1930s by Kishi Boatworks in Steveston, according to the society. It was a built by Japanese fishermen who had an eye for making nice looking boats.

“They had what we call ‘nice lines’ on them,” said Stevens. “Very esthetically pleasing design.”

The boat has been modified over the years, but it remains a classic example of a salmon fishing vessel of its age.

It’s not a completely pure design because the smaller boathouse was replaced with a larger one that was salvaged from another boat, Stevens noted.

The society said their research showed that the boat was confiscated by the Canadian government during the Second Word War when Japanese Canadians were expelled from the West Coast and put into prison camps in southern Alberta and the B.C. Interior.

After being bought and sold a few times, the last owner, Patrick Murphy, retired the boat in 1977, and put it into dry storage. The Murphy family then donated the boat in 2015 to the society for restoration.

What has made the project easier is the fact the boat had been stored in a barn for years, instead of the water, keeping the wood in good condition, said Stevens.

“It was in good shape to start with,” he added. “It was in surprisingly good condition. We were quite surprised when we first looked at it.”

So far, at the halfway point, the project has cost about $10,000. The society is continuing to fundraise and hosts its annual online auction from Nov. 21 to 27. People can bid for artwork by local artists by giving their best price via the society’s website at:

Some of the artists include John Horton, Jody Wilson and Michael Duncan, the first curator of the museum, who died recently.

In addition to local fundraising, the society is also hoping that some help from the City of Delta will speed along the project so that it can be finished next summer.

That help will come by the city creating a concrete pad and building a roof for the boat. That assistance was delayed by COVID-19, said Stevens.

Once that’s done, work can start on the boats’ interior and the project can be completed.

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