Black Tickle weighs grim options

Residents of a tiny, isolated community question whether they can stay in Black Tickle, as they adjust to news that their plant will not reopen.

Labrador village ponders fate in wake of fish plant closure

Residents of Black Tickle attended a community meeting Monday to consider their options. Peter Cowan/CBC

Residents of a tiny, isolated community in southern Labrador are questioning whether they can or even should stay in Black Tickle, as they adjust to news that their fish plant will not reopen.

"It's devastating. People here are looking at changing their way of life in a whole different way they never knew," said resident Laura Keefe, describing how people are still reacting to this month's decision by Quinlan Brothers to shut down the plant.

About 70 people had worked at the seasonal crab plant, a sizable portion of the population.

Even before the closure, Black Tickle already had serious problems retaining its population. The 2011 census counted 168 people as living there, down from 201 five years earlier and down from the 2001 census count of 245.

Residents crowded into a community hall on Monday for a meeting organized by the Liberal party. Options for future employment were raised, from crafts to berry production to finding a new operator.

Andrew Keefe, 27, who had worked as a butcher at the plant, said the closure is dark news.

"It's quite hard," he said. "It was not something I was looking at but I'm going to have to now, I'm not going to be able to afford to live here."

Black Tickle has limited options. The community is on an island off the Labrador coastline, which means there is no road and not even regular air access. Unable to commute to another Labrador community, the choice for many will be leaving.

But Laura Keefe said she is not prepared to see Black Tickle die.

"Right now, it doesn't look very good, but I do know at the end of this road there will be a solution for us," she said. "I'm not prepared to leave.  I will fight for my community and I'm not going anywhere."

Black Tickle is one of a series of towns in Newfoundland and Labrador reeling from recent closures of fish plants. Similar decisions have also been made in Burin, Marystown, Port Union and St. Lewis.