Plant workers optimistic as new Bay de Verde fish plant tests production 1 year after fire

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Plant workers optimistic as new Bay de Verde fish plant tests production 1 year after fire

One year after the fish plant that employed most of Bay de Verde burned to the ground, hope is brimming once again with the opening of a new state-of-the-art processing facility.

Quinlan Brothers Ltd. announced on Tuesday that a small quantity of snow crab will be run through the processing line to ensure the plant is ready as boats begin returning to shore with their first landings of the new season later this week.

That's quite a turnaround for a community that was rocked by disaster exactly one year ago, and plant worker Christy Coish said the mood around town is jubilant.

"It's a somber day because obviously it's the one-year anniversary but you can't really be too sad when you look out your window and you see this place. You've gotta be happy," she said.

"Because of the Quinlan Brothers we don't have to travel outside of our community for work. It makes a big difference."

The fire affected the livelihoods of nearly 700 people and cast doubt on the future of the area's longtime economic driver.

But Quinlan Bros. quickly recovered and managed to find alternate ways to have raw material processed last season, and also pledged to rebuild in time for the 2017 season.

From the ashes

That ambitious plan is about to become reality, with Robin Quinlan saying the plant is ready to go.

"It's surreal," Quinlan told CBC, referring to the 600-foot long metal structure that's risen from the ashes of the old plant.

The plant will process only snow crab this season, but the company is preparing to expand into groundfish when stocks allow.

The old plant also featured a busy northern shrimp processing line, but that resource is collapsing and the company did not rebuild the line.

The plant is said to be highly automated, and a worker at the facility said the number of processing jobs will be reduced.

In the past, workers from throughout the province, and from as far away as Thailand, were recruited to meet the demand.

That's not likely to be the case anymore, said the worker, but he said there will be plenty of opportunities for a local workforce.

Another plant worker, Edmund Doyle, told CBC News on Tuesday that he is eager to get back to work at the Quinlan Bros. plant.

Doyle has seen a lot of different companies come and go in the community over the years, but  said Quinlan has always been loyal to the people of Bay de Verde.

"They're a very good company, they're going to have work for the people. They started here and this is where they'll end it," he said.