Sea cu­cum­bers go­ing com­mer­cial

Old Per­li­can pro­ces­sors among those ap­ply­ing for li­cences to serve Asian mar­ket


As the ex­ploratory sea cu­cum­ber fish­ery moves closer to be­com­ing a com­mer­cial har­vest, pro­ces­sors are be­gin­ning to ap­ply for li­cences to process the del­i­cate marine life form.

Both Quin-Sea Fish­eries Ltd. in Old Per­li­can and Beothic Fish Pro­ces­sors Ltd. in New-Wes-Val­ley have ap­plied for pri­mary pro­cess­ing li­cences to process sea cu­cum­bers.

Larry Yet­man, a re­source man­age­ment of­fi­cer with the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans, said back­ground sur­veys have de­ter­mined there is a sig­nif­i­cant re­source lo­cated in the St-Pierre Bank (3Ps).

“ We feel there’s an op­por­tu­nity here to fur­ther de­velop the re­source and pro­vide some com­mer­cial op­por­tu­nity for additional fish­ers in that fish­ery,” he said.

Over the last three years, the fish­ery has grown in size. In 2008, 698 met­ric tonnes were caught at a landed value of $396,000.

By 2010, the har­vest had grown to 898 met­ric tonnes caught at a landed value of al­most $600,000. The har­vest­ing of sea cu­cum­bers usu­ally com­mences in the fall.

The Fogo Is­land Co-op­er­a­tive So­ci­ety Lim­ited has been get­ting a good re­sponse from the Asian mar­ket, ac­cord­ing to Yet­man.

“ We’re op­ti­mistic that the mar­ket­place is aware and wants the prod­uct,” he said.

“Hope­fully, this will de­velop into a sus­tain­able fish­ery that’s prof­itable for all in­volved.”

Any­where from 10-30 cen­time­tres in length, sea cu­cum­bers are used in Asian cui­sine, and their health ben­e­fits have been in­ves­ti­gated for al­ter­na­tive medicine pur­poses.

DFO ini­ti­ated the ex­ploratory fish­ery in New­found­land and Labrador in 2003.

Paul Grant, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent for Beothic, said his com­pany is look­ing at the species as a new busi­ness op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue.

“De­vel­op­ment of these un­der­uti­lized species is not a new thing we’re into,” he said, not­ing Beothic was one of the first pro­ces­sors of crab in the prov­ince.

“I think we owe it to our work­ers to look at other op­por­tu­ni­ties and not just fo­cus on the main species we’ve been deal­ing with.”

Sim­i­lar to Grant, Quin-Sea gen­eral man­ager Greg Hardy said sea cu­cum­ber pro­cess­ing rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity for his com­pany to of­fer more em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for plant work­ers, adding that lo­cal har­vesters have ex­pressed in­ter­est in the species.

“In ef­forts to ser­vice our cur­rent fish­er­men who fish other species for us, with a grow­ing in­ter­est in the Asian mar­kets in sea cu­cum­ber prod­uct, we’re try­ing to in­crease our pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity to en­com­pass sea cu­cum­ber and get more em­ploy­ment for our em­ploy­ees at the plant.”

Yet­man cau­tions the sea cu­cum­ber fish­ery will not likely re­solve on­go­ing prob­lems within the in­dus­try, and he ex­pects growth to hap­pen in in­cre­ments as DFO con­tin­ues to mon­i­tor the fish­ery closely.

Har­vesters are us­ing a de­vice sim­i­lar to a scal­lop drag towed across the bot­tom of the ocean to catch sea cu­cum­bers, though Yet­man said it does not in­ter­act with the sea floor as much as a scal­lop drag.

DFO is now seek­ing ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from har­vesters will­ing to take part in a com­mer­cial har­vest of sea cu­cum­ber.

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