People from all levels of the sealing industry gathered in St. John’s to officially open the association’s new office, located at 368 Hamilton Ave.
“This gives us a place to raise our profile and to operate in a professional manner,” Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the association, told the industry crowd during the grand opening.
This will be the first time in seven years the association has had an office to call home. Its previous office in St. John’s closed in 2004, to the chagrin of many in the province, because of lack of monetary support from sealers.
The new office is being supported by the province, which granted the association $68,000 to set up an office and develop a business plan, as well as the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board and the Fish Food and Allied Workers’ (FFAW) union.
These three groups have combined their efforts to offer the sealers’ association administrative assistance and office space for five years. The association hopes to work towards self-sufficiency during that time.
The new office is located in the same building as the FFAW so the two organizations plan on working closely together, Pinhorn said.
“They have the technology. They have the wherewithal for mass mailouts, to deal with the media and issue press releases and all these things. All those things are in place and we can use all those things to our advantage,” Pinhorn said.
The office is intended to become the focal point for nearly all activity related to sealing in Canada. From their new home, the association will offer training and advocacy for sealers as well as media and public relations for the industry.
The office also consolidates the association as a legitimate and important voice in the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries, said Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman during the opening.
“The establishment of this new office marks the beginning of a new era of diversification and growth for both the association and the Canadian sealing industry,” Jackman said.
By working with the union, the certification board and the province, the long-term goal is to have sealers recognized as professional certified harvesters, the minister said.
This goal of certification is only one of many issues facing the sealing industry, said Pinhorn, but Thursday’s opening was a step in the right direction to confronting some of those challenges.
“Our goal right now to is to build the industry, to grow the industry and to advocate the positive aspects of the industry. It’s one of the largest seal resources in the world and it has tremendous potential for rural Newfoundland and Labrador in terms of income and putting people back to work,” he said.