Nfld. & Labrador

Marystown fish plant demolition hard to watch for former workers

Ocean Choice International is tearing down its plant in Marystown, which has been closed down since 2011, and some residents are sad to see the structure go.
Ocean Choice International is tearing down its plant in Marystown, which has been closed down since 2011, and some residents are sad to see the structure go. 1:59

Ocean Choice International is tearing down its plant in Marystown, which has been closed down since 2011, and some residents are sad to see the structure go.

About 250 workers lost their jobs when OCI shut down its operations in the community.

Phonse Rowlands worked at the plant for 40 years — his wife for 36.

Phonse Rowlands worked at the OCI fish plant in Marystown for 40 years, and says watching the building's demolition is "heartbreaking." (CBC)
​Rowlands lied about his age to get the job there when he was just 15 years old, and watched the deconstruction of the oldest part of the plant with a heavy heart.

"I was excited, and there was a lot of people down there at that time that I did not know, but when this plant closed everybody was a brother and sister. You knew everybody that went down to work each morning," he said.

Marystown Mayor Sam Synard said the plant was the largest fish plant in the country, and really helped his community grow after operations began in 1967.

Broken promises

Synard worked at the site himself when he was in high school.

"It was quite common for the principal to say over the PA system, 'If anybody wants to go work on Saturday morning, go down to the fish plant,' we could make $20 for ourselves over the weekend so a lot of kids my age did that," said Synard.

He added he's disappointed the company didn't make more of an effort to sell the building, which Synard said has commercial potential.

Marystown Mayor Sam Synard says he wishes OCI had done more to try and sell the fish plant in his community. (CBC)
"But for the life of me I would search commercial websites and commercial retails sites, I couldn't see any clear indication that it was for sale. For example, nobody approached the town council with information about a possible purchase," said Synard.

Meanwhile, Rowlands said OCI made promises to employees that the Marystown plant had a future — promises he said weren't kept.

"I don't think they got much of a heart to be honest with you, because when they took over all of this they said Marystown was going to be working for such amount of weeks and the future looked really bright," said Rowlands.

"And all the concessions that we gave up to try to make this place work and and it's a bit heartbreaking."

The concrete foundation of the fish plant will be ground into landfill for the new dump, simultaneously grinding into dust Rowland's dreams of retiring from the job he loved.

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