‘Em­brace change’

Con­fer­ence ex­plores fish­eries fu­ture for Fogo Is­land

The Beacon (Gander) - - News - BY ADAM RAN­DELL THE BEA­CON Adam.ran­dell@gan­der­bea­con.ca

Em­brace change, or fall by the way side.

That was Phil Barnes’ mes­sage at Fogo 2067 when speak­ing about main­tain­ing a sus­tain­able fu­ture for Fogo Is­land’s fish­ing in­dus­try.

Most of the is­land’s fish­ers are 55 years of age and older. Ap­prox­i­mately 75 per cent of the 144 work­ers at the is­land’s three plants in Fogo, Joe Batt’s Arm and Sel­dom are 50-plus years old. Fur­ther­more, ero­sion of raw ma­te­rial through quota cuts means less prod­uct to process.

These stats alone paint a grim fu­ture for the next 50 years if noth­ing changes.

But Barnes, gen­eral man­ager of the Fogo Is­land Fish­eries Co­op­er­a­tive So­ci­ety Ltd., is still optimistic.

The co-op has im­ple­mented an ag­gres­sive off-is­land raw ma­te­rial re­cruit­ment plan, and an on-is­land raw ma­te­rial sta­bi­liza­tion plan to main­tain prod­uct sup­ply. It con­tin­ues to seek other species to re­place those in de­cline – the es­tab­lish­ment of sea cu­cum­ber and scal­lop pro­cess­ing be­ing key ex­am­ples.

To en­gage new har­vesters, ex­plo­ration of a Fogo Is­land Fish­ery Academy is un­der­way. Cur­ricu­lum is cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped for stu­dents at the high school level to of­fer a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the fish­ery and to build in­ter­est in get­ting into the fish­ery.

In main­tain­ing plant op­er­a­tions, Barnes noted re­cruit­ment from shut­tered plants around the prov­ince has been tak­ing place.

He also spoke of im­mi­gra­tion and new tech­nol­ogy to main­tain pro­duc­tion lines.

“I don’t think you can do it with tem­po­rary for­eign work­ers, be­cause it’s too ex­pen­sive and it’s about en­sur­ing con­tin­ued hours,” he said. “With im­mi­gra­tion, we get peo­ple com­ing into the com­mu­ni­ties to work and live, so we need to work with govern­ment, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to get a plan in place.” Aug­ment pro­duc­tion In stream­lin­ing pro­duc­tion, one such item Barnes spoke of was a flex­i­cut trimmer, which would sec­tion cod fish af­ter be­ing fil­leted.

When ques­tioned about tech­nol­ogy elim­i­nat­ing jobs at the plant, “it’s elim­i­nat­ing what we don’t al­ready have,” Barnes said.

“We are un­der­staffed, op­er­at­ing at 50 per cent and 60 per cent ca­pac­ity. These ma­chines

are not go­ing to re­place, it’s go­ing to aug­ment (pro­duc­tion)… as far as I’m con­cerned, it’s more ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy so it’s go­ing to em­ploy more highly skilled peo­ple in the fu­ture for bet­ter pay­ing jobs.”

The co-op also re­cently out­lined a five-year de­vel­op­ment plan fo­cus­ing on di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion within the fish­ery. The plan in­cludes build­ing tours of the fa­cil­ity, a fish mar­ket, seal pro­cess­ing and sec­ondary pro­cess­ing, as well as pro­cure­ment, en­hanc­ing cur­rent op­er­a­tions, ex­pan­sion and mem­ber ben­e­fits.

“If Fogo Is­land is go­ing to be here for an­other 50 years, we’ve got to change with the times,” said Barnes.


Phil Barnes, gen­eral man­ager of Fogo Is­land Fish­eries Co-op­er­a­tive So­ci­ety Ltd., spoke about main­tain­ing Fogo Is­land’s fish­ing in­dus­tries for the next 50 years dur­ing Fogo 2067.

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