“There’s a gen­er­a­tion gone that never touched a cod­fish”

Bon­av­ista plant worker re­flects on the past 25 years

The Compass - - Sports - BY MARK SQUIBB THE PACKET Mark.squibb@thep­acket.ca

BON­AV­ISTA, NL — Barry Ran­dell, along with the rest of New­found­land, sat on the edge of his seat on July 2, 1992, glued to his TV set, as fed­eral fish­eries min­is­ter John Cros­bie an­nounced the clo­sure of the north­ern cod fish­ery.

“I re­mem­ber sit­ting up in my liv­ing room, lis­ten­ing to the news, just like ev­ery­body else, and Cros­bie made the an­nounce­ment. All of a sud­den he was telling you your job was gone,” Ran­dell re­called. “’Where do we go from here?’ that was on ev­ery­one’s mind. Overnight you were out of a job ba­si­cally.”

Ran­dell had worked at the cod plant in Bon­av­ista since 1977.

He says that, ter­ri­ble as the news was, Bon­av­ista did man­age to catch a bit of a break.

“It was a big im­pact, but in our case it was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

“Here in Bon­av­ista we were a bit lucky be­cause we had the crab plant, so we tran­si­tioned from ground­fish,” he ex­plained. “Overnight you went from two plants to one.”

Ran­dell was one of those work­ers who was able to make the tran­si­tion from cod to crab.

With a sur­plus of de­mand for crab, Ran­dall says work­ers in and around Bon­av­ista man­aged to get back on their feet quickly.

“What­ever hap­pened the ground­fish col­lapsed and the shell­fish took off . . . most ev­ery­body here had a job to fall back on.”

But that doesn’t mean the mora­to­rium hasn’t left its mark on this North East coast town.

“When my daugh­ter went to high school, there were 700 kids in the high school. Now there’s 300 in the high school,” he said. “Same thing with Matthew El­e­men­tary. When I grad­u­ated from high school, there was a job here for me to go. My kids, they never had that op­tion . . . and that hap­pened all over.

“There’s a gen­er­a­tion gone that have never touched a cod­fish.”

Ran­dell, who is the cur­rent chair­per­son at the fish plant in Bon­av­ista, is op­ti­mistic that cod will re­turn, and that when it does, the work will draw young peo­ple back to the area.

“Cod is mak­ing a come­back,” he said. “I think even­tu­ally we’ll see ground­fish pro­duced here again.

“We need longer term jobs to con­vince young peo­ple – young peo­ple aren’t go­ing to stay around for 16 weeks work, you can’t blame them. [With cod] we worked April to Oc­to­ber, even Novem­ber some years. With crab, you come in with April and by mid July you’re pretty much done.”

MARK SQUIBB/THE PACKET

Barry Ran­dell says that as hard as times were, Bon­av­ista could rely on shrimp.

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