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February 7, 2006
(Executive Council)

Company, town reach agreement in principle to operate Harbour Breton plant

Premier Danny Williams is pleased to announce that an operator has been found for the fish plant in Harbour Breton. The Barry Group of Companies Inc. (BGI) has reached an agreement in principle with the Town of Harbour Breton to take over operation of the plant.

"This is good news for the people of Harbour Breton. The Barry Group has a proven track record in the fishing and aquaculture industries, which is why very shortly after the plant closed, I approached BGI to see if there was any interest in taking over the plant," said Premier Williams.

"Over the past year, the company did some serious thinking about the idea and we�re glad that they�ve agreed to assume operation of the plant. The company has a vision, in terms of diversifying the area and developing a regional economy, that is consistent with government�s approach to regional diversification. While the 300 jobs will not be replaced overnight, this is a very solid first step in providing fisheries-related employment with a well-established company to individuals in the area."

BGI intends to process pelagics such as mackerel, herring and caplin at the Harbour Breton plant. Discussions will also need to be held with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) on getting access to these species.

The company plans to produce food-grade products at the Harbour Breton plant for markets in Europe, Asia and North America. It also plans to use fish meal produced at the plant to supply feed to Natures Sea Farms, BGI�s aquaculture operation on the Connaigre Peninsula. As well, the plant will produce feed for the company�s mink operations in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The company estimates it could take up to four to six months to convert the plant into a pelagics operation. BGI expects to be able to start renovations and upgrades as soon as the legal work around the transfer of the plant from Fishery Products International to the town is complete. BGI intends to initially invest $2 million to upgrade the meal plant and to make the transition to pelagics processing.

"We believe that diversity is the key to creating a stable economic environment, and for Harbour Breton, the key is to make it the major pelagic producer on the south coast of Newfoundland, fishing the adjacent resources of herring, mackerel and caplin," said Bill Barry, CEO of BGI. "The plant in Harbour Breton has a history with pelagics, and we believe it should return to those roots. BGI has the best expertise in Canada when it comes to harvesting, processing and marketing pelagics, and with access to these species, we can definitely see a viable operation in Harbour Breton."

Harbour Breton Mayor Don Stewart said the town is looking forward to BGI taking over the operation of the plant as soon as possible. "This is great news for the town, and the whole area, and I want to thank government for its efforts in facilitating this arrangement. The past 14 months have been difficult, but this news will breathe new life into the area and will give people hope that Harbour Breton can rebuild."

"This has been a long process and there have been challenges along the way, but the hard work by everyone involved has definitely paid off," said Innovation, Trade and Rural Development Minister Kathy Dunderdale, who chaired the Harbour Breton ministerial committee. "I am pleased to have worked so closely with the people of the area to bring us to this point today. I believe this is the start of the rebuilding of Harbour Breton into a diversified and viable economy."

Premier Williams said government, the town and the private sector must all continue to work together to further diversify the economy of the Connaigre Peninsula. "Our work in Harbour Breton is not done. We recognize that the fishery will continue to play a huge role in the economy and in lives of the people of Harbour Breton, but the past year has shown how vital it is for the region to have a diversified economic base.

"We have secured an operator for the plant and that is a huge success. What is particularly significant is the link being made between traditional wild fisheries and aquaculture, which has a definite role in the future of the area," said the premier. "But while the diversification has begun, we all need to continue to identify new opportunities for the region with the goal of expanding the economy."

Media contact:

Elizabeth Matthews, Office of the Premier, (709) 729-3960, 690-5500
Lynn Evans, Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, (709) 729-4570, 690-6290
Karl Sullivan, Barry Group of Companies Inc. (709) 576-7292
Don Stewart, Mayor, Harbour Breton (709) 885-7548

2006 02 07                        10:15 a.m.

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