Plans for a 10-year pilot project, which will allow on-board processing of Hake, was discussed at the July 19 Regional District of Mount Waddington board meeting after copies of two letters were received.
“As you know we are committed to shore based processing in BC. While this pilot program may be for Hake only, we have members who, under certain conditions, can process Hake in the north and south,” said Kim Olsen, president of UFAWU-Unifor in a letter to Neil Davis, regional manager, ground fish, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“We oppose the possibility of losing work for them or any other shore-based plant,” Davis said.
“In addition, we see this as a foot in the door for the trawl fishery of BC being turned over to a fleet of factory ships,” he continued.
“By the end of the 10-year period it will have lasting impacts not only on trawl and processing on our coast, but on shore infrastructure and the well-being of our coastal communities.”
In the second letter, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council representative Clifford Atleo Sr. also expressed concerns about the impact this pilot project will have on First Nations and members that are employed in the on-shore plants.
“There are other potential negative impacts on Nuu-chah-nulth interests and Aboriginal rights that require further consultation,” said Atleo Sr.
“The groundfish trawl proposal for additional at-sea Hake processing triggers this consultation requirement,” Atleo Sr. said. “It may impact plants such as the one in Port Hardy. It’s a concern,” said Area B Director Phil Wainwright.
“It’s a big deal,” agreed District of Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood.
Stephen Hall, processing director for Marine Harvest, said this pilot project has no influence on Marine Harvest’s business.
“The company’s business plan, which includes the employment of many North Islanders close to their homes and the packaging of salmon at its state-of-the-art processing facility in Port Hardy, remains unchanged,” Hall said.
At-sea processing is not new, said Area A (Sointula) Director Heidi Soltau.
“They did it before, because none of the processing plants would take it (Hake),” Soltau said. Despited several attempts Keltic Seafood was unavailable for comment.