SOUTHERN LABRADOR, N.L.
It’s an impressive history.
Last week the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company (LFUSC) celebrated its 40th anniversary.
The milestone was marked at the company’s biennial convention, held Nov. 27-28, in L’Anse-au-Clair.
The company began as a co-operative with local fish harvesters as shareholders.
Today it employs hundreds of fish harvesters and plant workers along the Labrador coast, with processing facilities five communities: L’Anse au Loup, Mary’s Harbour, Pinsent’s Arm, Charlottetown and Cartwright
Today it generates revenue through the offshore fishery with its new boat the Northern Osprey III; and two mid-shore vessels — the Nain Banker and Belle Isle Banker. Inshore vessels from Cartwright to L’Anse au Clair also provide their catches to the company’s plants.
General manager Gilbert Linstead told The Northern Pen in the past decade the company has invested about $400 million back into southern Labrador.
This includes money paid to fishermen for their catches, wages and benefits for their plant workers, donations to local and provincial charities, and fuel and freight purchases, among other things.
Linstead told The Northern Pen the membership makes the shrimp company’s model successful.
“I work closely with our board and our membership and we’ve been able to cooperate and find ways of doing things together that’s beneficial for all of us,” he said. “Because of that, overall, the company itself has been successful.”
Craig Rumbolt has been with the company since the crab plant opened in Mary’s Harbour 32 years ago.
For the past 10 years he’s been the plant manager.
Rumbolt sees the company’s economic and social impact on his hometown firsthand.
In this small town of 350 residents, the shrimp company is the biggest employer with 80 people working at the plant.
Without the shrimp company, Rumbolt believes Mary’s Harbour would still exist, but thinks more people would have moved away.
“The community has improved overall, even after the (cod) moratorium,” he said.
The company constructed a new crab facility in 2014 and has plans to build a new groundfish facility.
Russell has been a member for about 24 years.
He feels the company’s social and economic benefits to the communities have been substantial. He credits cooperation of harvesters, who keep the fish in the area, and the plant workers.
Russell says the company’s constitution ensures profits are reinvested into the local economy.
He also credited, Frank Flynn, who has been president of the board of directors since the company started.
“He’s been steady at the helm and he has to be recognized for all his years of service,” he said.
Future in groundfish
As it looks to the future the shrimp company believes groundfish will be an important factor.
Currently the LFUSC is planning to build a groundfish facility in Mary’s Harbour.
Linstead says they have had to scale back the plans somewhat in response to the recent assessments from Department and Fisheries and Oceans scientists showing a drop in the biomass of cod.
“Because of the uncertainty of the last year or two, we’ve slowed down construction and the scope (size) of it somewhat until we know for sure what’s happening with the cod fishery,” he told the Northern Pen.
Nevertheless, the company is moving ahead with plans to build the facility so it will be ready for whatever quantity of cod is available to process.
With cuts in crab and shrimp, LFUSC vice-president and crab/shrimp harvester Dwight Russell feels the future of the fishery in southern Labrador is in groundfish.
“We need to have access to turbot, we need to have access to cod and I think some people are getting into pelagics, so that’s probably going to be a big part in offshore processing,” he told The Northern Pen.
And the LFUSC wants to make sure they are ready.
“We want to be ahead of the game, we want to put a plant there that’s going to produce the best quality, be leaders in quality and be ready for the world markets.”
About the Shrimp Company
Labrador Fishermen's Union Shrimp Company Limited (LFUSC), locally known as the Labrador Shrimp Company began in 1978.
The initial meeting to set up the company took place in Lanse au Loup, Labrador. A group of local fishermen gathered to discuss how best to use two shrimp licenses reserved for Labrador.
A co-operative was formed to apply for these licenses.
The Company's first contract to fish shrimp was with a group of companies from the Faroe Islands. The first year of operations resulted in jobs on shrimp vessels for local people and a revenue to the Company, in the amount of $750,000.
Earliest harvesting facilities of the LFUSC included a salt fish plant in Cartwright and a fresh fish operation in Lanse au Loup.
In 1982 a decision was made to change the cooperative to a registered limited company with the same mandate and operational goals.
Today the Labrador Shrimp Company operates processing facilities in Lanse au Loup, Mary's Harbour, Charlottetown, Pinsent's Arm and Cartwright and employs over 500 people on a seasonal basis, in the processing sector and services 600 fishers throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.