Falkland Islands Consolidated Fisheries Ltd (CFL) celebrated its 20th anniversary as a company at a reception and banquet at Malvina House Hotel. It also celebrated the 10th anniversary of its vessel CFL Gambler’s blessing and highlighted the MSC certification of the toothfish fishery.
CFL Chair Hamish Wylie told Penguin News how the company came to be in the early 1990s when, “little was known,” in the Islands, “about operating fishing vessels or selling fish.”
He said at that time local companies were very much still shut out of active involvement in the major fisheries by overseas companies. However, “identifying an opportunity to break that mould, Mike Summers, then General Manager of FIDC, and John Barton, Director of Fisheries, proposed to facilitate Falkland Islands fishing companies, to work together and learn from their experience, through the formation of a company to develop the emerging toothfish fishery,” said Mr Wylie
He said although CFL is now one of the most successful and profitable operators in the fishery, “few realize that on two occasions in its early history the company came extremely close to bankruptcy.”
Under pressure to move to vessel ownership at a time where there was a dearth of longline vessels on the market, CFL purchased a Canadian trawler in 1997. The vessel was converted to a longliner and named the CFL Pioneer.
Mr Wylie said: “With little knowledge in this area coupled with some poor advice, a steep and expensive learning curve soon followed. On the second occasion, declining catches resulted in the company losing substantial sums of money. The cause was mainly put down to excessive whale predation of toothfish from the fishing lines, and by November 2001 the company had four months in which to manage a solvent wind up.”
However, immediately after the decision had been taken catches started to improve, and light began to appear at the end of the tunnel. He explained how the Islands has benefited from CFL, “beyond the obvious,” saying, “CFL is substantially owned by five other local fishing companies that do not rely on its performance for their own well-being.”
For this reason CFL is more able to take a wider view on reinvestment of its profits. This is reflected in a pilot toothfish farming project aimed at providing an alternative source of toothfish to the company, and its substantial investment in the Islands containerized shipping link SAAS.
“Recognizing the pivotal role that a link to the rest of the world could have on the Islands economy, CFL has invested over £7million in SAAS and currently holds 70% of the debt that has been necessary to see the company through some extremely challenging times.”
During his speech he explained how Grant Munro led the company out of the late 90s, to hand over vessel operations to George Betts who later took over as General Manager in 2008.
During the celebratory evening, recently retired Mr. Betts was presented with the gift of a painting of the CFL Gambler in recognition of his hard work and valuable experience he brought to the company FIG fisheries scientist Paul Brewin was also recognized for his work on MSC certification. (Penguin News).