‘The plant has been our life’
Twillingate couple devastated by closure of shrimp plan
Gilbert and Margaret Hynes household income depended entirely on the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate.
The husband and wife have worked there for more than 40 years.
They say the news last week that the plant will not re-open is distressing not only for them, but for the whole town.
“It comes on down the ladder and everyone’s going to be effected,” Margaret said in an interview on June 23, the day after the announcement. “To tell you the truth, I was diagnosed with cancer last year in April, and that was no more devastating to me than what this is.”
With drastic cuts in shrimp quotas this year, many in the rural outport town had been worried for some time of a shutdown.
In the days leading up to the announcement, Gilbert and Margaret remained hopeful they would have employment for the summer.
“We had that hope in the back of our minds that it was going to open, but we had no such luck,” said Margaret. “And when we heard the news that it was closed, it shocked us.”
Having spent four decades at the plant, the couple have seen the highs and lows of the industry.
“He started there in ‘72, then I started in ‘73,” said Margaret. “We’ve been there ever since, except when they closed for the (northern cod) moratorium.
“The plant, for me and Gil, has been our life.”
Although it has been on a downward spiral the past three years, Margaret says the plant had provided a wealth of work and income for the community.
She still recalls the days when the plant employed over 200 people.
“I thought when the shrimp plant opened it was the best thing that ever happened in Twillingate,” she said. “It was booming; we’d even be getting called in on our days off.”
But 2017 has been the worst year the Hynes have ever seen for the fishery.
The sight of ice in the harbours of the island as late as June is not a view many in Twillingate have seen before. This has delayed fishermen from getting out fishing to catch their shrimp.
“Last year this time I’d say I’d have eight or 10 weeks of work by now. But so far this year, I haven’t worked a single hour.” Gilbert Hynes
“Years before, you’d see the boats out unloading now all the time,” said Margaret. “It seems like this summer, we haven’t seen much of that at all.”
Gilbert says he usually starts his work at the plant in March doing maintenance.
“Last year this time I’d say I’d have eight or 10 weeks of work by now,” he said. “But so far this year, I haven’t worked a single hour.”
Gilbert has started looking for work elsewhere, but the couple remain unsure of what they will do this summer. As is often the case in rural Newfoundland, particularly in recent times, employment is scarce.
“It doesn’t seem like anything is coming up this spring, nothing looks good,” said Gilbert. “In a small town like this, there’s a bit of construction and right now the tourism is good, but come September that will be gone.”
A meeting with the plant’s workers and FFAW was planned for Tuesday evening, June 27.
While some fear the plant may be closing permanently, the Hynes’ remain hopeful something positive will come out of the meeting.
The two would like to see the government intervene and come up with a solution involving the offshore shrimp quota. Gilbert wonders if a percentage of that quota could be processed in the fishing plants of rural Newfoundland.
“We don’t want hand-outs from the government, we want our plant open,” he said.
“That’s what we want, and that’s the big concern for the town.”
Gilbert and Margaret Hynes have worked at the shrimp plant in Twillingate for over 40 years. They are distressed about the news that the plant won’t open this year.