Could fish markets suffer when customers start buying from the wharf?

A fish market owner in Twillingate says letting people buy fish directly from harvesters could directly harm his business.
Ernie Watkins worries people may be more inclined to buy seafood right from harvesters instead of going to his market. (CBC)

A fish market owner in Twillingate says letting people buy seafood right from those that harvest it could hurt his business.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced this week it is relaxing rules for people buying fresh local seafood right from the wharf, to give individuals and restaurants greater access to fresh fish.

"What this impact this is going to do to me and the future of my staff?  Well, I guess we'll see," said Ernie Watkins, who has owned Twillingate's Waterside Fish Market for 17 years.

Watkins expects customers will now get cheaper prices directly from the harvester — which means fewer customers coming to his business.

While the new rules might be good for customers, who will have access to better products at cheaper prices, Watkins worries about how the new regulations will affect the bottom line of fish markets like the one he owns.

"I'm pretty sure there's going to be a layoff or two, somebody's going to lose their job. It's got to happen."

Ernie Watkins has owned the Waterside Fish Market in Twillingate for 17 years. (CBC)

Watkins also runs a dinner theatre and some cabins that surround the fish market, and he worries that if people aren't coming to the market to buy seafood then it could affect the entire operation.

He said he has invested $1 million in his businesses over the last three years, and said he will wait to see how it all pans out next year before he decides to make the cuts. 

The Waterside Fish Market is part of a larger operation that includes rentable cottages and a dinner theatre. (CBC)

Watkins said if business declines so much that he has to sell the operation, he suspects no one else will step in to take it over.

"If we close the doors out in this area, I guess there will be no more," he said.

"I can't see anybody else who is going to take the chance to put a business here. There's not a big market in it, but it is a small living."


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