Located on the south coast of the island of Newfoundland on the Connaigre Peninsula is the historic town of Harbour Breton. The town was founded by early European settlers who depended on the rich fish resources in the many bays and inlets dotting the beautiful rugged coastline. Many of the residents were resettled from neighbouring coastal communities – Sagona Island, Jersey Harbour, Little Bay West, Miller’s Passage, Red Cove, and Grole.
Land Area, km2
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting, Manufacturing
As the largest community on the peninsula, the town of Harbour Breton acts as a service hub for the region, and remains optimistic about opportunities for growth in the economy. The community has a modern health facility, recreation facilities, water facilities and a large number of established businesses to meet the needs of local residents. Harbour Breton has a full time economic development officer on staff to support new opportunities for the community.
The traditional fishery has long been, and is still considered, the mainstay of the town’s economy, and the traditional fishery is on the rebound. However, aquaculture opportunities are now leading economic development in the region. The Coast of Bays Regional Development Corporation, of which Harbour Breton is a member, has been working cooperatively over the past number of years to bring new resources and opportunities from this sector to individual communities in the region. This cooperation has been a positive venture benefiting all communities with infrastructure improvements and sustained employment.
A number of difficult issues remain for Harbour Breton, however. The population of the community is aging rapidly and housing for seniors is a growing issue. Low school registration reflects the dropping birth rate, and youth are migrating to work or leaving for educational opportunities. Few youth are attracted to the fishery. Employment at the Harbour Breton fish plant has been up and down since 2004. Current operations have been shut down for more than a year, and the immediate employment needs of more than 100 displaced plant workers is concerning for the town.
There are no college programs in this area to retrain workers. Service Canada is no longer present in the community and the provincial Employment Assistance office closed last year.
Tourism has helped to diversify the economy; however distance from the more populous regions of the province keeps tourism numbers relatively low. Most tourists here arrive either through family connections, or as destination travelers. Eco-tourism offers new opportunities for economic growth. Walking trails introduce the visitor to local vegetation, wildlife and spectacular scenery. Kayakers can explore the ancient glacial fjord that is Harbour Breton Bay – with its sheer cliffs, gravel beaches and waterfalls – or paddle to the resettled community of Jersey Harbour and view a historic shipwreck.
As the service hub for the region, Harbour Breton is intricately tied to the future of other Coast of Bays communities. Continued nurturing of the cooperative work undertaken at the Joint Council level offers promise for regional resource development. Extending this cooperation in new ways – whether supporting additional sectors such as eco-tourism, or coordinating the provision of skills and employment training in the region- may hold the key to sustaining regional economic diversification and a bright future for Harbour Breton.