‘The plant has been our life’

Twillingate cou­ple dev­as­tated by clo­sure of shrimp plan

The Beacon (Gander) - - News - SPE­CIAL TO THE PI­LOT

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.

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