Nfld. & Labrador

Harbour Breton plant should be operating later this year: Bill Barry

Fish plant workers in Harbour Breton have been frustrated with a lack of development on processing at the salmon plant, but Bill Barry says his company is now planning to pick up operations at the site later this year.
Bill Barry says his company intends to resume operations at the fish plant in Harbour Breton in November 2015. (CBC )

Fish plant workers in Harbour Breton have been frustrated with the unclear future of the town's fish plant, but Bill Barry says his company is now planning to resume operations at the site later this year.

Last year, Barry Group decided not to renew Cooke Aquaculture's lease to process fish at the plant in Harbour Breton, leaving about 150 plant workers in the lurch.

However, Barry told CBC News Wednesday that his company intends to have people back to work at the Harbour Breton plant later this year.

Bill Barry says his company wanted to make sure it was making a sound, long-term decision on the fate of the fish plant in Harbour Breton, rather than a short-sighted decision that could end badly for everyone. (CBC)
"We're going to begin work on the wharf this spring — end of April, early May — and early in the summer we're gonna start plant renovations and we hope to have the people back working in the plant on fish production by the first of November 2015," said Barry.

"We'll be hiring some people before that to do some things around the plant that we need to get done — obviously the first choice will be people from Harbour Breton."

Employees at the plant were concerned about what they said was an uncertain future after Cooke Aquaculture said it wouldn't be continuing operations at the site.

The plant was shut down because of an outbreak of salmon anemia. Then, the Barry Group decided not to renew Cooke Aquaculture's lease.

However, Barry said his company was waiting to ensure salmon anemia was no longer an issue before deciding to reopen the plant.

"It really comes down to the economics of doing the right thing, making the investments and the right time, because if you do the wrong thing you simply won't be there … it's not really about a short-term investment," said Barry.

"It's about strategically doing it at a time that you know that for at least the first three years you're into it you're going to have fish because if not, you're putting out an enormous amount of money and not being able to begin recouping it."

He added the economic risk of resuming operations wasn’t worth it before, but after evaluation decided the time was right.

"A slower good decision is way, way, way more beneficial for the people in communities and the people in the province than a fast bad decision," said Barry.

According to the provincial government, the proposal to upgrade the wharf in Harbour Breton is part of an overall development plan for the plant, adding that discussions are ongoing with the Barry Group.

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