Nfld. & Labrador

Partnership brings new life to St. Anthony fish plant, but does it kill a neighbour?

A community leader in Black Duck Cove is worried Quin-Sea Fisheries is using insurance money from its burned-out fish plant to invest in a different town.

Black Duck Cove plant burned down last year, leaving 75 people jobless

The fish plant in Black Duck Cove caught fire on May 15, 2019. (Sandra Plowman)

A community leader in Black Duck Cove is worried a proposed fish plant deal in St. Anthony will mean the death of her community.

Millie Dredge was horrified when the fish plant in Black Duck Cove burned down last May. As a member of the local service district committee, she was even more upset to learn the company that owned the plant, Quin-Sea Fisheries, is proposing to take over another one in St. Anthony.

Dredge said the company owes her community and the 75 employees who spent 20 years of their lives working there.

"Now you imagine, a new company for St. Anthony, and [they] take the insurance money they got for the plant in Black Duck Cove and and invest it in St. Anthony, and the workers in Black Duck Cove get nothing."

Quin-Sea Fisheries have yet to return calls from CBC News.

St. Anthony Seafoods is a joint venture between Clearwater and St. Anthony Basin Resources Inc. A new proposal would see SABRI give up its share to Quin-Sea Fisheries. (SABRI)

The Black Duck Cove plant burned to the ground in a massive, fast-moving fire on May 15. It broke out around 7 p.m., while workers were still inside. Nobody was injured.

The company offered to move the workers to its other plants, namely its plant in Old Perlican — more than 900 kilometres away.

FFAW hopeful for jobs

The company is proposing a joint venture with Clearwater, one of the largest holders of shellfish licenses in the country.

St. Anthony's plant, about an hour away from Black Duck Cove, is 75 per cent owned by Clearwater and 25 per cent owned by the non-profit group St. Anthony Basin Resources Inc. A new proposal would see SABRI give up its entire stake in the plant.

I will be accepting the board's recommendation.- Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne

The fisheries union says it's hopeful and optimistic the proposal will bring new jobs to the region with an increase in the amount of fish processed at the plant.

"This is certainly good news for the people of St. Anthony," wrote Fish, Food and Allied Workers president Keith Sullivan.

Dredge said the workers feel slighted by the union's optimism.

"Did they forget the 75 workers that worked in the Black Duck Cove plant an hour's drive from St. Anthony?"

Deal depends on review board

The proposal is not a done deal — it's still dependent on a review from the province's licensing review board.

Provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne said the final decision is entirely up to them.

"There will be a very thorough review of this proposed sale and the board will report to me and I will be accepting the board's recommendation," he said.

Gudie Hutchings, the region's member of Parliament for the region, said she's encouraged by the proposal but wants to see more information on the impact on Black Duck Cove.

"While this operation will prove to be a tremendous opportunity for the people of the St. Anthony area, I look forward to learning more about the implications this may have on the workers of the former Quin-Sea plant in Black Duck Cove," she wrote on Twitter.

Dredge said she feels the town's only hope is the provincial government shutting down the proposal after the review process.

"They have an obligation to Black Duck Cove, too," she said.

Failing that, she fears there will be dire circumstances for Black Duck Cove.

"Our community dies."

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