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Terry Roberts
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Labrador company to build new processing plant in Mary's Harbour

The troubled fishing industry is hanging on by a thread in many regions of the province, but it appears Southern Labrador is an exception.

The Labrador Fishermen's Union Shrimp Co. is a harvester-owned seafood processor headquartered in L'Anse au Loup.

It wants to build a new, state-of-the-art crab-processing facility in Mary's Harbour, a community of more than 400 residents.

The decision to invest in a new plant comes in the face of shrinking crab quotas off Labrador, and at a time when uncertainty in the fishery has rarely been higher.

A Labrador company hopes to build a new processing plant for the crab industry in Mary's Harbour. - Submitted photo

The troubled fishing industry is hanging on by a thread in many regions of the province, but it appears Southern Labrador is an exception.

The Labrador Fishermen's Union Shrimp Co. is a harvester-owned seafood processor headquartered in L'Anse au Loup.

It wants to build a new, state-of-the-art crab-processing facility in Mary's Harbour, a community of more than 400 residents.

The decision to invest in a new plant comes in the face of shrinking crab quotas off Labrador, and at a time when uncertainty in the fishery has rarely been higher.

But president Gilbert Linstead said the company has no choice.

The existing plant in Mary's Harbour is dilapidated and inefficient, and is close to "falling into the water," said Lindstead.

So the company was faced with two options: pull out of the community altogether, or rebuild in Mary's Harbour.

Since most of the company's crab is landed in Mary's Harbour, Linstead said the choice was obvious.

The company is moving forward with various permit applications, including an environmental assessment, and hopes to begin construction this year.

Linstead expects the roughly $4.5 million facility will be ready for operation in 2012.

"It will be second to none in the province," he said.

It's the most significant investment made by the company since its $11 million shrimp processing facility opened in Charlottetown a decade ago.

Linstead acknowledged "our hand was forced" because of the condition of the Mary's Harbour plant. But he's hopeful there will be a rebound in the crab stocks and there will be a long-term future for the new plant.

"We didn't want to do this. If we could have stayed in the old facility, we would have done that," he said.

Crab quotas in the region have been slashed by about 70 per cent in recent years, resulting in reduced work-weeks for the Mary's Harbour plant. The same is also true for the company's other crab plant in Cartwright.

The uncertainty has affected the company's ability to maintain its workforce, and Linstead hopes the investment will encourage more area residents to stay with the company.

"Looking forward, we can see a problem coming," he said.

According to documents registered with the Environment Department, the new plant will use modern technology and work methods to produce high quality products, making it more profitable than the current operation.

The company plans to construct a pre-engineered steel building measuring 80 feet wide by 260 feet long on Crown land adjacent to the government/plant wharf on the south and the community road to the town centre on the east.

Part of an embankment will have to be removed and about 450 square metres of the harbour will need to be filled in.

Processing is expected to take place each year from May to October, with the same volume of raw material that is processed at the existing plant.

The company expects to transfer 65 to 80 employees from the existing plant to the new one.

But improvements in production could mean fewer hours of work. The documents states that the current 12-hour shifts will be replaced with nine-hour shifts.

Linstead downplayed this.

"There might be more nine- hours shifts," he stated.

As for the financial health of the company, Linstead said it's weathering the storm.

"We're OK," he said.

Those with an opinion on the new plant have until July 13 to comment on the application.

A decision on the environmental assessment from Environment Minister Charlene Johnson is due by July 18.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Union Shrimp Co., Environment Department

Geographic location: Mary's Harbour, Labrador, Southern Labrador L'Anse au Loup Charlottetown Cartwright

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Recent comments

  • Scott
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    You are doing a great job Gilbert, keep up the exceptional work that both you and Ken are doing. The fishery is the lifeline of Southern Labrador as you know and both the company and your staff are looking out for the people that depend on that for a living. You deserve a pat on the back and good luck with the new plant in Mary's Harbour.

  • Good For Ya
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    Good to see the company investing the money back into itself. The people of Mary's Harbour could certainly use the work and the town could use the boost to the economy. Best of luck to everyone involved. Hope the quotas come back!!

  • Scott
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    You are doing a great job Gilbert, keep up the exceptional work that both you and Ken are doing. The fishery is the lifeline of Southern Labrador as you know and both the company and your staff are looking out for the people that depend on that for a living. You deserve a pat on the back and good luck with the new plant in Mary's Harbour.

  • Good For Ya
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    Good to see the company investing the money back into itself. The people of Mary's Harbour could certainly use the work and the town could use the boost to the economy. Best of luck to everyone involved. Hope the quotas come back!!