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New Bedford seafood plant will close, cutting 200 jobs

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Seafood processing plant High Liner Foods said this week it will shut down most of its New Bedford operations, and about 200 workers will be laid off.

The layoffs will start April 29, and are expected to be finished by the end of September, according to a Feb. 17 letter sent from High Liner to the office of Mayor Jonathan Mitchell.

High Liner, based in Nova Scotia, uses its New Bedford plant to process breaded and battered fish cutlets, known as “value-added” seafood. The plant will shut down, while the company’s scallops division in New Bedford will remain open.

The company purchased the seafood plant from American Pride in 2013.

“We did not do the transaction thinking we would close the facility in three years,” President and CFO Peter Brown told Eyewitness News in a phone interview. “That was not part of the plan.”

Brown said the company determined it could streamline its production from four plants to three, leaving its facilities in Nova Scotia, Portsmouth, N.H. And Newport News, Va. open.

When asked why the New Bedford plant was selected for closure, Brown said the company considered the location of customers and suppliers.

“There was a very in-depth analysis done,” Brown said. The decision had nothing to do with the quality of employees at the New Bedford plant, he added.

Employees were notified Wednesday of the plant’s planned closure. Layoffs will begin April 29, and end when the plant closes in September. Employees will receive severance packages based on how long they worked with the company, Brown said.

In the letter to the mayor’s office, High Liner Executive Vice President Joanne Brown said the company is now working with the “Rapid Response Team” of the Massachusetts Division of Career Services to support employees who are losing their jobs.

Mayor Mitchell responded to the plant’s closure, releasing the following statement to Eyewitness News on Friday:

New Bedford has generally been the beneficiary of recent acquisitions and restructuring in the commercial fish processing industry, including expansions among local processors, so the High Liner decision clearly runs counter to the overall industry trend. That said, our first concern right now is to make sure we mitigate the impacts on the affected High Liner workers and their families. Connecting employees with education and job-training assistance can make a big difference, so the City has already begun working with the Career Center and the Workforce Investment Board to mobilize and coordinate these resources.”

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