New Brunswick

Cape Bald Packers promises to rebuild Cap-Pelé fish plant after fire

Cape Bald Packers has committed to rebuilding its fish processing plant in Cap-Pelé after a fire destroyed their processing facility Sunday.

Meetings with employees planned for this week

Company spokesperson Joanne Losier said foul play isn't suspected in the fire that destroyed one of two Cape Bald Packers processing plants in Cap-Pelé. (Radio Canada)

Cape Bald Packers says it will rebuild its Cap-Pelé fish-processing plant that was destroyed by fire Sunday.

"We plan to rebuild as soon as possible," company spokesperson Joanne Losier said at a news conference Monday.

While the investigation into the cause of the fire continues, the manager of corporate affairs said production will resume in May, when the spring lobster fishing season begins. 

"We fully intend and we are planning for processing to resume in May in a way where all the workers from Cap-Pelé and Richibucto Village will have a job." 

Joanne Losier, manager of corporate affairs with Cape Bald Packers, said the Cap-Pelé processing plant destroyed by fire Sunday will be rebuilt. (Radio Canada)

This is the second processing plant owned by Cape Bald Packers to be destroyed by fire this month. The lobster-processing plant in Richibucto Village burned down Feb. 7. That location, purchased by the company in 2014, employed up to 175 people. 

The company's three plants, including a second plant in Cap-Pelé, processed snow crab, lobster and mussels from May to January each year.

Looking for new space

More than 500 people are employed at the two Cap-Pelé plants. 

The company is looking to lease space for its operations to ensure all who depend on the business — fishermen, employees and customers — are accommodated, Losier said. 

"Those plans will be confirmed very soon," Losier said. "Our goal is to have the least disruption possible, including for our customers who are all over the world." 

She added these also included harvesters from Atlantic Canada and the United States who sell lobster and snow crab to the company. 

Employee update 

"Cape Bald Packers is a large close-knit family," Losier said. "All our employees are devastated, they're worried and they're trying to figure out what the future holds for them in the coming weeks." 

Losier said the company's management team will hold meetings with employees in Cap-Pelé and Richibucto Village over the next few days. 

​The manager said employees come from an area running  from Rogersville to Sackville. Foreign workers from Mexico and the Philippines are also employed at the plants. 

Under investigation

Firefighters from the Cap-Pelé Fire Department continue to douse hot spots as the investigation into the fire at the Cape Bald Packers processing plant continues. (Radio Canada)

While the plant that burned Sunday was insured, Losier the cost of the damage is still unknown. 

"We have no reason to suspect foul play was involved. We are waiting for the results of the investigation." 

Cap-Pelé Mayor Serge Léger said he was hopeful the company, which is the largest employer in the village, will build again and "rise from this fire."

"It touched everybody," Léger said. "Either you're a fishermen, or you worked here sometime in your life, or you're still working here. It's a big part of the community." 

Léger spent Sunday at the site of the fire to provide any support he could to the company's owners and the Cap-Pelé fire Department, which had help from six fire departments in neighbouring communities. 

"We're still in shock. We're just waiting for more details." 

Community reaction

Cap-Pelé Mayor Serge Léger said the fire at the fish plant affects everyone in the village of about 2,250 people. (Ian Bonnell/CBC)

Paul Blair, who's worked at the processing plant for 10 years, said he's anxious to hear what the company has planned for the immediate future.

"I'm just hoping something good will come out of it. I hope so." 

Blair, who moved to the area from Jamaica, said he was remaining positive, adding it was the only way he could look at it.

"We'll have work, some good will come. I'm not going to think worse." 

Employee Paul Blair said he's staying positive about the future of Cape Bald Packers in the village. (Ian Bonnell/CBC)

Albert LeBlanc, president of the Cap-Pelé Chamber of Commerce, said it's hard to estimate the effect the fire will have on the community, but he knows it will be felt by many. 

"The economy for the restaurants and stores and everything else is going to be terrible." 

With files from Tori Weldon