By Andrew Robinson
Transcontinental Media/The Beacon
When there’s a downturn in the fishing industry, you don’t necessarily think of Gander, N.L. But as a service centre to communities fuelled by fishing income, the town is certainly not immune. “If there’s a bad year in the fishery and they don’t make money and get the product to sell, it will have an affect on Gander businesses. There’s no doubt about it,” said Mayor Claude Elliott, who points out that many people along the Kittiwake Coast shop in Gander.
Back when the cod moratorium was announced in 1992, Sandra Kelly was the mayor of Gander, and she saw the consequences firsthand. “It has been long recognized that Gander is the service centre for smaller communities in this region,” she said. “I think it really proved itself at that time the theory we had always held — what is good for Gander is good for the region, and what’s good for the region is good for Gander.”
Since then, Kelly said, many of the smaller communities have lost their own stores and have come to rely on Gander even more.
This season has seen low prices for shrimp, snow crab, lobsters and seal, all related to the recession and poor demand.
Morley Goodyear, manager of the Gander Consumers Co-Op, said business is normal now, but he’s bracing for what might lie ahead. “We think it’s going to affect our business later on, say in September, October or November,” he said. “All they’ll do is cutback, and they’ll just have the basics. And ( businesses) can’t survive on basics, not in retail.”
But Joe Penney, manager of the local Toyota dealership, said he’s staying optimistic. “When we watch the news, we’re constantly hearing about the economic downturn and a recession not seen since the ‘30s,” he said. “It’s so horrible to watch the news. The auto industry, especially, is in such turmoil…We’re so caught up in how bad it’s supposed to be, but it’s really not that bad.”
With much of the fishery’s year remaining, he said, opportunities still exist for a good season. “I don’t see the impact of low shrimp or lobster problems having any bearing on car sales,” he said.
And the rising price of oil may act as a counterbalance.
Work on the oil sands in Alberta has started to pick up steam again, Kelly noted, and Alberta jobs have made rural Newfoundland and Labrador less dependent on the fishery.
By Andrew Robinson