By Greg Bennett
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
A decision to close the Clarks Harbour Clearwater lobster storage plant will see more than 20 people lose their jobs in this southwestern Nova Scotia town.
Clarks Harbour Mayor Leigh Stoddart, who received the news in a call from Clearwater Fine Foods Chief Operating Officer Eric Rowe, described the closure as a huge blow to the community, and noted it will affect many families and businesses.
“I feel especially bad for the workers, many who have been there for years,” said Stoddart.
Company officials say the decision was not made lightly, and ends a decades-long relationship with the community.
“Something like this is never easy to do,” said company spokesperson Christine Penney, who said a thorough review of the business found an overcapacity in lobster storage.
With the closure of the Clarks Harbour facility, the company is centralizing its dryland lobster storage capacity at its plant in Arichat, Cape Breton. Lobsters are held in individual compartments in a patented system the company says mimics the animal’s overwintering environment, which helps to maintain quality.
Penney said the Clarks Harbour closure will also see an extra shift and a few more employees hired at Clearwater’s Pierce Fisheries plant in Lockeport.
She said some of the 21 salaried and hourly Clarks Harbour employees affected by the closure would be offered positions there. Employees will also be offered severance packages in line with their years of service.
No decision has been made on what the company will do with the property.
“We’ll continue to look into options for that,” said Penney.
In a typical year more than a million pounds of live lobster moved through the facility to customers across North America, Europe and Asia.
Mayor Stoddart noted that the town could potentially lose a significant amount of tax revenue from the closure and is hopeful another company will be able to make use of the facility and return some of the jobs lost.
“Hopefully another door will be opened,” he said. “We need a stable anchor here.”
The Mayor noted that some of the laid off employees may leave the community for work elsewhere.
“We’ll probably lose a group of younger people,” he said. “That’s never good.”