Closure of Eastern Seafood | The end for Matane shrimp?

The Matane shrimp will only have Matane in name. A few days before the start of the fishing season, the oldest shrimp processing plant in Quebec closes its doors. The Danish company Royal Greenland announced on Monday that it was closing down the Eastern Seafood processing plant.

The fall in the Nordic shrimp fishing quota, the labor shortage and low market prices for seafood are among the reasons given by the company, 100% of whose shares are owned by the Greenlandic government.

The closure, first reported by regional media, owned by Arsenal Media, causes 55 employees to lose their jobs as well as at least 104 temporary foreign workers, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and of Quebec Food (MAPAQ).

Even if it is fished off the coast of Sept-Îles, in the Esquiman channel and around Anticosti Island, northern shrimp is often called Matane shrimp because it is in this town of Bas-Saint-Pierre. Laurent that the first processing plant was set up. Two other factories remain in operation, in Rivière-au-Renard and L’Anse-au-Griffon, in Gaspésie.

The mayor of Matane, Eddy Métivier, speaks of “a total surprise” as the Danish company had recently invested millions to add lobster and crab processing to its activities, in addition to building 71 housing units for its temporary workers .

“We are in shock, it’s really a hard blow,” he said in an interview. It is a symbol for Matane. It’s like putting an end to historical fishing traditions. In this sense, too, it is a mourning. »


The Eastern Seafood processing plant

Just like Mr. Métivier, the PQ MP for Matane-Matapédia, Pascal Bérubé, said he was surprised by the announcement.

“Last fall, we believed we had helped secure the plant because we obtained a lobster processing contract from the Quebec government, which had initially been refused. (…) Its location is near the port of Matane which will undergo a rejuvenation, an investment of more than 80 million,” he declared.

Peeled shrimp

Northern shrimp has been fished in the St. Lawrence since 1965, but it has been managed by quota since 1982. The quota allocated for 2024 is the smallest in the history of this fishery.

Shrimp stocks are at their lowest level in more than 30 years. The warming of the deep waters of the St. Lawrence, the drop in oxygen in the water and the predation of redfish – a bottom fish – would be to blame for the collapse of stocks.

“The climate crisis is real and its effects are already being felt in our marine ecosystems. Shrimp are victims, but other species are expected to experience similar disruptions in the coming years. This is why a broader reflection on the future of fisheries is necessary,” indicated the federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Coast Guard, Diane Lebouthillier, in a written statement that she sent to us.

On January 26, the minister announced a “marked drop” in the total authorized catch of northern shrimp for the 2024 season: 3,060 tonnes. For comparison, the quota was 14,524 tonnes last year. In 2015, it reached 31,549 tonnes.

The Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is now calling for “concrete actions” from the federal government. “This closure demonstrates that our processing companies, as well as our fishermen, are very sensitive to the latest decisions taken by the federal government,” declared André Lamontagne.


“The drastic reduction in quotas that we are experiencing this year on the fishermen’s side, it is certain that it affects the processors too. Logically, there are no longer enough shrimp for three factories in Quebec, that’s for sure,” explained Patrice Element, director of the Quebec Shrimp Fishermen’s Office, in an interview.

“It’s worrying because it’s a major player that is falling in the fishing industry,” adds Claudio Bernatchez, general director of the Association of captains-owners of Gaspésie (ACPG).

“It’s a part of history that ends and it’s also where we see that companies like this which become the property of foreign companies (…) when they have choices to make, it’s a purely economic decision that is taken without consideration for workers and the impact it can have in a community,” he adds.

For fishing technician and author Gaétan Myre, history repeats itself.

This is the pattern of Gaspésie, of all resource regions, whether in the forest or in the fisheries: companies like that come, they exploit and when it no longer suits them, they leave. are going. It’s capitalism.

Gaéten Myre, fishing technician and author

The author deplores the fact that, apart from brief interludes, shrimp exploitation in Matane has since 1965 been the business of foreign companies. “There is not much dynamism in Quebec for the promotion of products. We always sell the raw materials at a low price. »

Labor shortage

In its press release, Royal Greenland also reports difficulties “in obtaining the necessary labor even for the limited quantities that we can produce”.

A consequence of Ottawa’s recent decision to reimpose on Mexicans the obligation to obtain a visa before arriving in Canada, believes the general director of the Association québécoise de l’industrie de la peche (AQIP), Jean- Paul Gagne.

An email from the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship sent to the industry on February 29, however, mentioned that “Mexican temporary foreign workers in Canada (…) will not be affected.”

However, “they are very affected”, insists Jean-Paul Gagné.

“We were expecting them for the start of the fishing season which starts next week. Usually, they arrive in advance, training is required for the new ones and they have to be installed. But there we have a big problem,” he explains.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, the president of the Matane factory, Jean-Pierre Chamberland, declared that the issue of foreign workers was the straw that “broke the camel’s back.”

The addition of additional steps to the process for the arrival of these workers has considerably increased the delays,” testifies Mélanie Sirois, president of Dotemtex, a company specializing in international recruitment which supports the majority of manufacturers in the field, including Fruits. East Sea.

At the Matane plant, 149 temporary foreign workers from Mexico were to be hired in Matane, she said.

While the fishing products processing industry hired 784 of these workers last year alone, 400 of them still risk not being able to arrive in Quebec in time for the start of the season this year. worries Mélanie Sirois.

“Unfortunately, other processors are in the same situation as them. If, by Friday, we have not identified viable solutions so that a good part of these 400 affected workers can fly next week, these are a large part of our processors in the crab industry, shrimp and, ultimately, lobster which will be affected. Factory closures are imminent. »


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