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We’ve seen this movie before


Harbour Breton has a long history in the Newfoundland fish processing business, as it’s been a key part of that industry for over five decades.

In its heyday in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the plant, under companies like B. C. Packers, Fishery Products and Fishery Products International, employed over 400 people in the processing and trawler sectors.

The plant was the heart and soul of the Town and supported many spin-off jobs in other businesses in the community.

The supply of fish seemed endless and, for most of these years, the plant was operating on a year-round basis.

Then in 1992 things started to change with the beginning of the cod moratorium. While it was still a part of the province’s fish

processing industry, the plant saw only sporadic work from 1992 to 2004.

The first movie about uncertainty at the plant began in November 2004 when FPI said that, as a result of an engineering study, they had determined that the Harbour Breton Fish Plant has structural problems and was not safe for occupancy, and that the company would not be resuming its operations in this plant.

Approximately 350 people were employed at the facility at the time.

Bill Barry, the president of the Barry Group of Companies entered the movie in 2006 when Danny Williams’ government confirmed that approval had been granted for the sale of the plant to Mr. Barry for the grand amount of $1.

The Barry Group did some renovation to the facility and did process redfish there for a brief period.

After going through a long period of turmoil and uncertainty things really started to improve in 2008 when Barry leased the facility to Cooke Aqua, an aquaculture company from New Brunswick which started farming salmon in Newfoundland in 2006.

Cooke started processing salmon at the plant in January 2008 and from that point, up to the end of 2013, the Cooke operation employed about 150 people.

However, at the end of 2013 the Barry Group did not renew its lease with Cooke Aqua as Barry said that Northern Harvest Sea Farms would begin processing fish at the plant.

Barry said that repairs to the facility would begin in May 2014 and the plant would be ready for processing fish in October.

And now we learn that the facility will not see any processing of farmed salmon at least until February 2015.

So, the second movie about uncertainty in Harbour Breton begins now with workers asking will the facility actually open next February.

Up to today, August 15, it doesn’t seem like any renovation work inside the facility or its wharf has been started.

Keith Hutchings, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture told the Advertiser on August 15 that discussions on renovations to the plant were still ongoing with the Barry Group and the provincial and federal governments.

He also noted that equipment for the facility’s new operation has already been ordered.

Hutchings said that, while some displaced workers are already on Community Enhancement Programs, the Department of Municipal Affairs have already been in discussion with the Town about adjusting the program as more workers come off EI throughout the fall.

So, the plant workers in Harbour Breton are in another period of uncertainty. We can only wait with baited breath to see how this movie plays out in 2015.

 

Clayton Hunt

Clayton.hunt@advertisernl.ca

 

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