Communities on edge over crab licence

Rudy Norman
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Fish plant in La Scie are worried about the repercussions if Little Bay Islands' crab licence is transferred to St. Joseph's.

The efforts of the Daley Brothers company to move a crab licence from Little Bay Islands to St. Joseph’s has many people on edge.

The Daleys owns fish plants in Little Bay Islands, La Scie and St. Joseph’s.

Residents of Little Bay Islands are worried about what the loss of their fish plant would mean to their community. The Town of La Scie also has concerns.

The La Scie plant employs roughly 300 full-time and part-time workers. It is by far the largest employer in the community of fewer than 900 people and workers there are worried if the transfer from Little Bay Islands is successful, it could have repercussions for their own plant.

Currently, more than 80 per cent of crab processed at La Scie comes from fishing zone 3L. If the crab licence were to move to the Daleys’ plant in St. Joseph’s — saving the company major shipping costs — workers fear their hours of work will be reduced, or in the worst-case scenario, the plant will be closed.  

La Scie’s town council has spoken out about the issue, saying they are not in favour of it, but those directly affected are mostly workers at the plant in La Scie.

Jim Andrews has worked there for 35 years and has seen his share of rough times.

“The general consensus among workers is what this could mean for our plant,” he said.

“We’re worried because this move might not just be shutting down one town, but rather two,” he said.

He said the crab plant in La Scie provides the livelihood for many families in the community, including his own.

“We’re concerned for ourselves, obviously, but we’re also concerned for the people of Little Bay Islands,” said Andrews.  “No one wants to see people out of a job, but when it drains the lifeblood of a community, it’s all the more worse.”

Other workers echoed his sentiments. Jean Thomas, a plant worker for nearly 40 years, said she’s proud of what the company has done for the community over the past number of years.

“Since (the) Daleys took over the plant, things have been wonderful,” she said.

“We’ve seen good things happen here — the plant has been successful and has made it through some tough times. Daley Brothers have given a lot to the people of La Scie, and I hope they don’t take away from any of that now.

“A lot of people would be faced with the tough decision of moving away,” she said sadly. “Those are the ones I worry about — it’s not easy to sell everything you own and just go. I think about those people, and wonder what they must be going through.”

Willie Kerfont, who is in his mid-40s, would be faced with such a decision.

“I would have nothing,” he said. “My only option would be to go away, and I’m definitely not the only one.”

Kerfont said a number of people, many with families, would either be separated or relocated in the event that operations cease at the plant.

“Right now, my wife says she doesn’t want to go, so in that case I guess we’d end up working in difference provinces,” he said, since seeking employment out of the province seems like the only option.

Kerfont no longer has family at home depending on his income, but some workers at the plant have children enrolled in the local school.

The impact would extend beyond the fish plant’s walls.

“If the plant goes, everything goes,” he said. “Businesses can’t survive if people have to go away, so that eliminates jobs for people who aren’t employed by the plant.”

The Nor’wester

Organizations: Town of La Scie

Geographic location: La Scie, Little Bay Islands, Daleys

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  • Gravely concerned
    September 10, 2010 - 09:49

    I don’t understand ... The people of La Scie (presumably harvesters inclusive) claim a large percentage of the product coming to this plant comes from 3L. What’s up with that? Look at the map. I stand to be corrected but isn’t there a lot of fishermen in La Scie? Has there ever been a large amount of support for any operator of that plant? History has shown not. The government needs to consider this in its decision and at what point it will take the initiative that is needed to truly address the problems in the fishing industry. Where is the MOU?