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Maine senator Olympia Snowe expressed surprise at Bumble Bee's decision to close down the Prospect Harbor cannery. (Photo: Stock File/Senate)

Country's last sardine cannery closes

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Friday, February 19, 2010, 23:40 (GMT + 9)

Bumble Bee Foods announced on Wednesday it will close the last sardine canning facility in the country on 18 April and terminate 130 jobs. The company intends to close the Stinson Sardine Cannery in Prospect Harbour, Maine, for good, according to Gov John Baldacci.

Part of the reason is the cut in the total allowable catch (TAC) of Atlantic herring in New England from 145,000 tonnes in 2009 to 90,000 tonnes in 2010, said Maine Senator Olympia Snowe.

"Where it stands now keeps us from production levels that would ensure the plant's long-term viability," said Melody Kimmel, a company spokesperson.

Back in 2004, the TAC was 180,000 tonnes. The drastic cut down to 90,000 tonnes this year erases the economic viability of the cannery, which has been running for over 100 years, Kimmel said, Bangor Daily News reports.

"I know that the decision to close the plant was a difficult one for the company and for the community," Baldacci said in a statement. 

Snowe was "surprised and disappointed" by the news. 

"I am particularly disturbed about this decision since Bumble Bee assured my staff last fall that no plans were in the works to close this plant despite the virtual certainty of a reduced catch level of herring in 2010," she said, MPBN News reports.  "This sudden reversal of that commitment without any advance notice or effort to work with us to help steer this situation towards a more favourable outcome is inexcusable."  

Resulting from an anti-trust case brought against company predecessor Connors Bros Ltd, which purchased the plant in 2001, Bumble Bee inherited a consent decree with Maine that mandates keeping the plant open until 2011. But due to the lowered TAC, Bumble Bee is seeking a waiver from that contract, according to Kimmel.

The senator had negotiated to increase the regional TAC for herring this year to 106,000 tonnes, she said.

Meanwhile, Baldacci’s administration will attempt to create a new use for the plant and aid workers find new jobs, he informed. Both he and Snowe said they would work to offer the laid-off workers state and federal assistance, they announced in separate statements on Wednesday.

Baldacci assured that the Maine Departments of Labour and Economic and Community Development will work to help out the town. The Department of Labour, spokesman Adam Fisher said, often can establish training programmes to teach workers new sets of skills to satisfy the demand of a company looking to redevelop a facility.

San Diego-based Bumble Bee will be providing workers with some severance pay and job placement counselling services, the company stated.

Related article:

- Quota cuts for Atlantic herring

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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