A line in the sand

George Macvicar
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A heart breaking scenario is playing out in the Town of Fortune this month. It’s a scenario impacting a lot of Newfoundland and Labrador fishing communities.

It happened in the late eighties and one of the towns affected then, Grand Bank, was lucky enough to survive. It happened last year when Ocean Choice International shutdown its Marystown fish plant permanently. The end of this year High Liner Foods has announced it will close the Burin secondary fish plant. There are other plants closing around the province as well.

OCI says it wants to operate the Fortune plant for 35-40 weeks a year but it wants the FFAW and provincial government to allow it to ship out 75 per cent of its yellowtail flounder quota for processing in China. But the union has said no.

Earle McCurdy said it would have policy implications for the union extending beyond the Fortune plant.

The FFAW drew a line in the sand just over a year ago when it was first presented the shipping overseas of flounder quota during the Marystown plant dispute. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the union to reverse its stand on this issue for plant workers in Fortune after standing its ground and watching the Marystown plant close.

Mayor Charles Penwell claimed such a decision by the FFAW means closing the door on his community.

The fishing industry, which has sustained this province since it was first settled over 500 years ago, has been on a downhill slide for at least two decades. Global competition, the high Canadian dollar on the stock market decimating exchange rates and the ever increasing fuel costs for trawlers are among the issues impacting the industry.

Fishery communities and workers are a dying breed in this province – people want to work and survive in this industry but it’s come down to a situation where external forces are at play and there’s little these towns can do, demonstrations or blockades, to keep their industry alive.

George Macvicar, Editor/Manager

Organizations: Grand Bank, High Liner Foods

Geographic location: Marystown, Burin, China

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