After a lengthy period of uncertainty, it looks like the future is secure for fish plant workers in Grand Bank.
Clearwater Seafoods announced earlier this week it has entered into an agreement with 14 First Nations communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
A news release from Clearwater states the agreement between the company and the First Nations communities will be a 50-year partnership that protects existing jobs in the Arctic Surf Clam fishery while creating meaningful economic, employment and capacity building for the 14 First Nations that are adjacent to the clam resource.
Grand Bank Deputy Mayor Clayton Welsh said the deal is welcome news to the people of the town, especially those who rely on the local processing plant for their livelihood.
“With the uncertainty that’s been going on in the last number of months with the workers not knowing if there’s going to be a layoff or not knowing if the plant is going to be closed down for a short while, that was all up-in-the-air, didn’t know what was on the go,” said Welsh.
“So now with this new agreement, the workers know that when they go to bed in the night time, now and get up tomorrow morning, they got a job to go to. So it’s a lot of anxious moments that are finished now as far as they are concerned.”
Last year, former federal fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc announced the department would issue a fourth licence for surf clams to the company comprised of First Nations people from Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
The licence would have given the new holder access to 25 per cent of the existing total allowable catch (TAC). That licence was later cancelled.
Chief Mi’sel Joe of Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River told The Southern Gazette talks with Clearwater Seafoods were ongoing for the majority of last year. He feels all parties involved will benefit from the agreement.
“In the last go around the federal government … was taking away 25 percent of the quota (from Clearwater) and putting it out for proposals. Of course, we bid on that, but we all know that wasn’t the best deal around,” said Joe.
“When we looked at it again this time around with Clearwater and signing with the bands in Nova Scotia, it means that there’s no lost jobs in Grand Bank, there’s no lost jobs anywhere.”
“It’s good for us, good for Grand Bank, good for the people of Newfoundland (and Labrador) and good for us as Aboriginal people,” he added.
Joe said the agreement is in line with the recommendations laid out in a report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
“One of the 94 recommends made in the TRC is bringing people together — this makes a lot of sense.”