St. Anthony -
There will be another competitor for Gulf shrimp this season - one that wants to truck it off the Northern Peninsula.
Daley Brothers Ltd., former owners of the Anchor Point shrimp processing plant, is setting up a pump in Port Saunders. The company has a shrimp processing plant in St. Joseph's on the Avalon Peninsula.
"Let's face it, Daley's walked out of Anchor Point and left everyone high and dry," said Michelle Dredge, Black Duck Cove plant representative for the United Fishermen and Commercial Workers (UFCW). "They didn't worry about the fishermen, they didn't worry about the plant workers, they didn't worry about the Northern Peninsula."
The nearly 400 plant workers in Port au Choix, Black Duck Cove and Anchor Point who rely on the Gulf shrimp quota are worried Daley Brothers Ltd. will buy shrimp that would have gone to local plants and ship it to St. Joseph's, cutting back on available work.
A former subsidiary of Daley Brothers, Sea Treat Ltd., went bankrupt in 2006. Workers at its Anchor Point plant learned they were out of work over the radio. However, there's concern that some Straits area dragger owners will be forced to sell their shrimp to Daley Brothers because of loans from the company for gear, equipment and licences.
"He does have perhaps some relationships up there, let's put it that way," hinted Fisheries Minister Tom Hedderson of the deals when asked by the Northern Pen.
Nonetheless, he says the province won't reinstate regulations that once prevented shrimp from being bought and shipped to other plants off the peninsula.
"That agreement was made when FPI was investing in upgrading its plants back in the 1990s. Since then we've gone from a 13,000-lb resource to 180-million lbs - conditions have changed dramatically since the 1990s when we had adjacency rules."
Peninsula plants now process an average 13 million lbs of shrimp annually and Hedderson predicts another buyer won't have much affect.
"There is a bit of nervousness and anxiety and I can understand that, but any buyer coming in to the Northern Peninsula had better have all their ducks lined up - they'll be competing with strong companies," Hedderson said. "This is competition and it's very hard for any government to get in and limit competition."
Dredge isn't satisfied with that response.
"Shrimp is the main security we have on the Northern Peninsula. It's like Stephenville with their mill - when they took the mill out all the security was gone out of Stephenville."
The shrimp industry is the largest private employer on the peninsula, forming the backbone of the economy. However, while fishermen contacted by the Pen weren't willing to comment publicly, it was raised that extra competition for their product could help raise prices and make their enterprises more viable during what could be a hard season.
"This is an issue we're not letting go away," Dredge said. "We fought for a couple years to get the plant in Black Duck Cove. We've got a good future here and we're not letting it go down the drain. They're opening the door here for something you might not be able to close."