TWILLINGATE, N.L. — The Town of Twillingate is determined to push for a license to process groundfish.
Deputy mayor Cyril Dalley is also chair of council’s fisheries committee. He says the town is developing a strategy and meeting with various parties to make the processing of cod and turbot a reality for Twillingate.
“Ever since we found out our shrimp was in trouble and our plant was not in production for 2017 and again this year, it’s been the priority of council to try and obtain a processing license for this area,” Dalley said. “We believe Twillingate is strategically located for such a license; we’ve got a very busy port and with the cooperation of all involved in the industry we can have a viable operation here that focuses on quality and proper management.”
With the decline in shrimp stock and biomass, Twillingate has been hit two summers in a row with the closure of Notre Dame Seafoods shrimp plant.
The plant shutdown has been a major blow to the Twillingate community.
“Twillingate is fighting the pinch with the plant closure. Grocery stores are down, everything is down,” said Coun. Lloyd Blake.
Dalley, Blake and Coun. Wayne Greenham believe enough cod and turbot is caught and bought to the port of Twillingate currently to make for a viable groundfishery.
From information obtained in an emailed response from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), in the year 2017 over two million pounds of cod were landed in the New Bay Head to Farewell Head, Notre Dame Bay area. There was also 552,000 lbs. of turbot/Greenland halibut landed in this area. In 2016, 1.9 million lbs. of cod were landed in this area, and 530,000 turbot/Greenland halibut was landed.
“This is first and foremost a fishing community, and there’s enough raw material to have a processing operation here,” Dalley said. “If it’s harvested properly it can mean long-term viability.”
Currently, cod bought in Twillingate is shipped to Arnold’s Cove or other areas for processing. With the growing focus on quality in the fishing industry, Blake feels this could be a major selling point for an operation in Twillingate.
“Quality is what this new fishery is all about, but cod that’s bought here is trucked five or six hours away – so where is the quality?” asked Blake. “The fishermen are doing a good job with catching a quality fish, but from that on you lose the quality when it is sent so far for processing.”
While the recent stock assessment by DFO shows a decline in the northern cod stock, the committee believes it is simply too soon to say the northern cod population is not rebounding.
To apply for the license the town will have to go through the Fish Processing Licensing Board, under the provincial government's Department of Fisheries and Land Resources. There are currently 46 primary groundfish processing license holders in the province.
However, the acquisition of a groundfish processing license is the long-term goal for council and the fisheries committee.
The committee recently met with Notre Dame Seafoods, Lewisporte-Twillingate MHA Derek Bennett, and representatives from the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW). According to the committee, an announcement on employment for the plant workers is expected later this month.
“The plant workers are gradually starting to come off their EI (Employment Insurance) claims, and the town needs to be ready to have work for them when they need it,” said Dalley. “They’ve played a very important role in this community and we’re concerned about their welfare.”
Council also hopes to meet with the provincial Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, Gerry Byrne, to discuss their desire for a groundfish operation in the Twillingate area.
They also hope the province will provide assistance to enable them to repair some slipways, wharves and other marine infrastructure in Twillingate.
As they continue to develop this long-term strategy, Dalley and the other councillors are firm in their stance that ensuring a future fishery is an integral part of the future of Twillingate.
“None of us can accept the idea that there is no fishery in this area; there definitely is,” said Greenham. “We’re not going to give up on our town, and that’s what we’re here for – to push for the survival of our town.”