Grieg Seafood Newfoundland is postponing the construction of a building at its freshwater fishery in Marystown and terminating the construction jobs along with it, citing lower salmon prices in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company announced the halt in a media release Wednesday. Perry Power, Grieg NL’s director of communications and human resources, told CBC News the company laid off 100 people with the company’s standalone construction arm, Grieg NL Development, which employes 193 people.
“Both professionally and personally these are our neighbours,” said Power. “So this is a very sad day for our company.”
Grieg is halting the construction of a post-smolt unit, which houses hatched salmon before being transferred to ocean cages.
In the media release the company said it will reduce the pace of its investments, and postpone some of the construction of its land-based operation, but resumption of construction down the line will depend on the salmon market improving.
Power said remaining staff will continue with the construction of the smoltification building, where hatched salmon become accustomed to salt water, which will give the company the necessary space to fulfil its requirements for biomass leading into the next few years.
“Basically we’re going to have enough room to grow all our salmon,” he said. “These people did an absolutely fantastic job. It’s a world-class set of facilities down there now. It just means the large salt-water one we’re going to have to put that construction on hold, and I want to emphasize it is on hold, until markets recover.”
Power said the project deferral will affect many of the company’s suppliers as well, from lumber, concrete and tools, across Newfoundland and Labrador and the rest of Canada.
But he said he doesn’t expect any disruption to the production of the company’s salmon. Wednesday’s announcement pertains only to the construction aspect of the operation.
More jobs at stake?
Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture Minister Elvis Loveless said nearly 200 people will be out of work in the next few months.
“There will be job losses of 193, that will happen between now and Christmas,” Loveless said during question period in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.
“[Grieg NL] reassured us the project will proceed, but unfortunately at this time, this piece of the project will not be proceeding, it will be deferred. But the end goal of this project will happen.”
Loveless was fielding questions from Placentia West-Bellevue PC MHA Jeff Dwyer, who pressed the minister on when the work would start up again.
Loveless said that while he had talked to representatives with Grieg NL earlier in the day, he did not know a possible restart date.