N.S. Pilot Project Could Aid Processing Worker Shortages

A pilot project between Ottawa and Nova Scotia could be a solution to the growing problem of a diminishing work force in the fishing industry.

Fish plants and harvesters are finding it hard to find workers as the outflow of young people from the area to Ontario or the Prairie provinces continues and the former Harper government had severely curtailed the ability of the industry to bring in migrant workers to fill these positions.

The problem is so acute that some processing plants could be forced to shut down, especially in the lobster processing industry in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

A new pilot project will now see up to 800 migrant workers allowed in the area. This could lead to full citizenship and the new entrants would be able to bring in their families.

This is good news for a number of fish plants.

Riverside Lobster International of Meteghan River, N.S., is a growing company with over 300 employees working on a full-time basis. But workers have been hard to find. The company has five buses travelling each day to Digby and Yarmouth picking up workers.

This still prevents the company from reaching peak capacity, as it could use another 100 workers. The company’s capacity is 65,000 pounds of lobsters processed each day. This cannot be reached due to a worker shortage.

Up to now, most accepted immigrants were usually highly skilled, like physicians. While there is a great need for doctors in most areas of Nova Scotia, the fishing and farming industry — especially fruit growers — cannot find enough workers due to the seasonality of some operations.

Riverside presently employs 22 Mexicans and company owner David Deveau said their work habits are exceptional.

Harvesters have also been employing workers from New Brunswick and Newfoundland during the peak lobster fishery in LFA 34, which covers a period from its opening the last Monday in November to the end of December.

Meanwhile, things aren’t quiet on the tidal turbine front in Nova Scotia.

Recently, a third environmental monitoring platform was being tested in the Minas Passage, but fishermen are skeptical about the results.

The platform will collect data on fish presence and behaviour, but some of the equipment has failed, coming as no surprise to the Fundy United Federation.

The group has opposed the project because it said it would directly impact the fishery in the area.  Proponents of the project, including the provincial government, say the only way to find out what impact these turbines would have on the fishery and ecology of the area is to set one up and monitor what happens.

If the project is eventually given the go ahead, more turbines would be set up in the area at the mouth of the Minas Basin, which the fishermen feel would greatly impact their industry. The issue has reached the courts with the harvesters attempting to have the test turbine stopped until a full ecological assessment can be conducted.

Alain Meuse

Contributor - Nova Scotia

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