Elvis Loveless has yet to sign off on it, but the fish processing licensing board recommended on Aug. 25th that the Minister responsible for fish processing approve the addition of salmonids (aquaculture) to the existing fish processing licence for Quinlan Brothers Ltd.'s plant in Bay de Verde.
Quinlan Brothers' Bay de Verde operation has a primary fish processing licence for groundfish (all species), snow crab, and pelagics (all species). The plant was destroyed by fire in April 2016, but rebuilt the next year.
Quinlan Brothers announced last spring the company had entered into a three-year contract with Grieg Seafood to be the exclusive producer of farmed salmon harvested by Grieg — with the harvesting this fall of 5,000 tonnes from the company's farms near Southern Harbour.
(FISH) CART BEFORE THE HORSE
Only Quinlan's fish processing licence does not include salmonids (aquaculture), and the company's application — while recommended for approval by the board — has yet to be approved by Loveless.
In recommending approval of Quinlan's application, the board wrote that the expansion will mean more jobs — including possible year-round work for around 50 people.
"After careful consideration, it was concluded that there were no mitigating circumstances that would not warrant granting this species addition to their existing processing primary licence," read the board's recommendation to the minister.
The recommendation also said there were no letters of objection or support.
That's surprising because when news broke in April that the processing jobs would go to the non-unionized plant in Bay de Verde — as opposed to the unionized jobs at OCI's plant in St. Lawrence — the move was condemned by OCI and the FFAW that represents St. Lawrence workers.
Greg Pretty accused Grieg of contract flipping and choosing "cheap labour" at the non-unionized Bay de Verde plant, where Quinlan's was expected to hire 125 temporary foreign workers from Thailand this past season.
The FFAW called for "harsher regulation of processing companies."
“We are trying to build a meaningful industry on the Burin Peninsula, and Grieg chose to roll back the clock on labour relations,” said FFAW-President, Greg Pretty. "Our members the OCI plant in St. Lawrence were given a commitment of quality employment and opportunity, and it’s another show of blatant disregard for our workers, the region, and our industry.”
Pretty went on to say the move by Grieg to move processing jobs to Quinlan's was an example of "all that is wrong with the licensing system in Newfoundland and Labrador."
So why were there no letters of opposition to Quinlan Brothers' application?
The FFAW currently represents workers at fish farms owned by Mowi – Northern Harvest Seafarms in St. Alban’s, and has attempted to represent other workers in the province's aquaculture industry.
That creates a conflict of interest for the union that also represents inshore harvesters in the wild commercial fisheries that are also impacted by at-sea fish farms.
In September 2017 the provincial government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Grieg Newfoundland to development aquaculture on the south coast — including $45 million in provincial government funding through the Aquaculture Capital Equity Investment Program.
Executive Director, SEA-NL
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit sea-nl.ca to join. Contact me at email@example.com or 709 682 4862.