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Reason for optimism at St. Anthony Seafoods

St. Anthony Seafoods is processing and filleting cod for the first time since the plant opened in 1999.
St. Anthony Seafoods is processing and filleting cod for the first time since the plant opened in 1999. - Stephen Roberts

Facility processing cod for the first time

Cod is being processed and filleted in St. Anthony for the first time since the 1992 moratorium.

The Northern Pen has learned that St. Anthony Seafoods, owned by Clearwater Seafoods (75 per cent share) and St. Anthony Basin Resources Inc. (25 per cent share), is partnering with Northern Lights Seafood Inc. to process and fillet cod at the plant.

Trial runs started on Aug. 15. When The Northern Pen spoke with Andy Schnare, owner of Northern Lights Seafood, he expected full production to be underway the following week.

“We’re hoping if everything goes well, it will be something for the future to look forward to,” he said. “And we’re sure everything will go well.”

Schnare is providing the filleting equipment and has markets established to sell filleted cod.

It is the first time cod has been processed at St. Anthony Seafoods.

The fish are being purchased from local harvesters.

Previously, inshore fishers in the St. Anthony area had to sell their cod to Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove on the Avalon Peninsula.

It would be trucked across the island, in turn degrading the quality and commercial value of the product.

Having it produced locally potentially means a better value for their cod.

St. Anthony Basin Resources Inc. (SABRI) executive director Sam Elliott is optimistic.

“I’m excited about it from SABRI’s perspective,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been working on for a long time, trying to find a solution so fishermen wouldn’t have to sell their fish on an open receipt to somewhere else.

“Hopefully it’ll make them more comfortable that they’re selling it at home.”

The news is also encouraging for plant workers at St. Anthony Seafoods who have been struggling to get work.

Shrimp has been the plant’s main product, but significant cuts in the inshore shrimp quota over the past two years has meant substantially less work.

The Northern Pen reported earlier this summer that concerns were arising over whether many workers would get enough hours to qualify for employment insurance benefits.

They didn’t know if their income would last through the winter. This means a little more work for them.

Trudy Byrne is a plant worker from St. Anthony and is St. Anthony Seafoods representative on the FFAW-Unifor Industrial/Retail/Offshore council.

She is encouraged by the development.

“With the shrimp on so small a scale and seven plants needing the supply, another species being produced at our plant will greatly be appreciated,” she wrote to The Northern Pen. “If it only helps a dozen people, that’s 12 people not needing make work programs.”

The commercial cod fishery is open until November.

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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