Seafood pro­cess­ing plant wants to add four species

Season’s scal­lop set­backs prompts ad­di­tional in­vest­ment

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front Page - BY ROS­ALYN ROY

Labrador Gem Seafoods hopes to add four new seafoods to its pro­cess­ing op­er­a­tion at the Ramea fish plant. Danny Du­maresque, the com­pany’s CEO and pres­i­dent, says the ap­pli­ca­tion to process lob­ster, sea urchin, sea cu­cum­ber and whelk is ready to go.

The com­pany cur­rently only pro­cesses scal­lops in Ramea, and an un­ex­pected prob­lem with a har­vester’s on board tank sys­tem re­sulted in a de­layed start to the season for the plant’s 40 – 50 em­ploy­ees.

Du­maresque hopes that by di­ver­si­fy­ing it will al­lay fears about the fu­ture of the plant, while help­ing to ex­tend the pro­cess­ing season for work­ers and per­haps even add a few new jobs.

“Hope­fully we’ll get an ap­proval for that ap­pli­ca­tion and then we’ll pre­pare to process th­ese new species as they be­come avail­able start­ing next spring,” he said via phone in­ter­view.

He cau­tions that adding th­ese four new species does not mean the Ramea fa­cil­ity will be­come a year-round op­er­a­tion. Typ­i­cally, it op­er­ates about eight months of the year, from April un­til Novem­ber.

“It will cer­tainly help the bot­tom line in terms of em­ploy­ment for our work­force and of

course rev­enue for our com­pany,” he noted.

When it comes to lob­ster, Du­maresque says he’s def­i­nitely no­ticed an up­swing in the har­vest the past few years.

“I think lob­ster right now, I think there’s some­where be­tween 50 and 70,000 pounds that are landed there and we’re hop­ing that that will in­crease in the fu­ture,” he said.

While the idea of pro­cess­ing sea urchins might be new to the Ramea fa­cil­ity, Du­maresque has a solid back­ground to draw on.

“I did a sig­nif­i­cant study of sea urchins years ago when it comes to the har­vest­ing, pro­cess­ing and mar­ket­ing of sea urchin roe (uni),” said Du­maresque.

“I know there’s a market out there for it, but we have to pre­pare it prop­erly and there’s a cer­tain time when it’s bet­ter than oth­ers.”

The same goes for whelk. “I know there’s a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in the whelk biomass and fish in that area, but you know as I said, we might find a whelk fish­er­man that might bring us 50 or 100,000 pounds of whelk that we can process in a form that would be com­pat­i­ble with our ca­pac­ity there,” he ex­plained.

While adding the new species may ex­tend the pro­cess­ing season, the bulk of it will re­main on the main­stay scal­lops.

“The fun­da­men­tal role of the plant will con­tinue to be the pro­duc­tion of wild har­vested bay and sea scal­lops,” clar­i­fied Du­maresque. “It will give the fish­er­men lo­cally a chance to sell it and cre­ate em­ploy­ment and rev­enue in their own com­mu­nity, and it cer­tainly will help us in the mar­ket­place be­cause there are times that I will be able to sell some scal­lops to them (buy­ers) if I could of­fer them maybe a few cases of lob­ster.

“That’s the kind of thing that we are al­ways be­ing asked for, and hav­ing a sin­gu­lar species cer­tainly lim­its your mar­ket­ing ca­pac­ity.”

The trou­ble with the scal­lop har­vest this past season is one of the pri­mary mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tors be­hind the com­pany’s bid to di­ver­sify.

“If we had other species there, for ex­am­ple, like I’m of­fer­ing to do now, while it may not have re­placed the same kind of work we do with scal­lops, it cer­tainly would have helped to cre­ate some em­ploy­ment and to help some of the over­head costs that we had whether we have scal­lops in the plant or not,” Du­maresque said.

Help­ing the com­mu­nity’s work­force is an im­por­tant bonus as far as Du­maresque is concerned, who hopes to see some­where be­tween five to 10 new jobs cre­ated, and a cou­ple of months more em­ploy­ment for the cur­rent work­ers.

“More im­por­tantly, in my opin­ion, it will guar­an­tee the pro­duc­tiv­ity in the plant for the pe­riod of time that we will be open,” he said. “For ex­am­ple, I can see where we could do sea urchins, for ex­am­ple, in March and April, when that would be a great time for them to pro­duce their best qual­ity roe.

“We could be do­ing two months of sea urchins be­fore the scal­lop season even opened, and we could also do that at the end of the pro­cess­ing season, maybe Novem­ber and De­cem­ber.”

Be­cause sea urchins re­quire divers in or­der to be har­vested in New­found­land and Labrador, Du­maresque fore­sees po­ten­tial em­ploy­ment there too.

“I’m quite fa­mil­iar with the har­vest­ing tech­nique and the har­vest­ing ca­pac­ity of divers, and I’m con­fi­dent that we can find peo­ple in this area to be able to come and dive for sea urchins and work with a li­censed fish­er­man in the area to make it work for every­body,” he said.

When it comes to di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, Du­maresque says the need has arisen from both the mar­ket­ing side and the pro­duc­tiv­ity side.

“There’s times when I’m not go­ing to be able to get scal­lops in the fu­ture and if there’s a way to fill that space in our freez­ers or in our cook­ing ca­pac­ity in the plant, well then we should be do­ing that,” he said.

Du­maresque says there is a sig­nif­i­cant market for lob­ster and scal­lops in North Amer­ica al­ready, but whelk and uni would ap­peal too. Sea cu­cum­bers would likely hold greater ap­peal in main­land China, but he won’t be lim­ited by ge­og­ra­phy.

“For the amount of prod­uct that we think we would do, there’s no rea­son why we wouldn’t be able to have an ac­tive trade in the North Amer­i­can market,” he noted.

De­spite the scal­lop set­back, Du­maresque has ev­ery con­fi­dence in next year’s har­vest, and is even hop­ing for an early start now that the ves­sel’s tank sys­tem has been fixed.

“We are not de­terred. Yes, we are dis­ap­pointed in the season, but we are not de­terred, and we be­lieve that if we can get the sup­port to add th­ese new species to our li­cense it will en­hance the vi­a­bil­ity of our op­er­a­tion, and our in­ten­tion is to be in Ramea for a long time to come,” he said.


A met­ric ton of dis­carded scal­lops lines the wa­ter at the base of the seafood pro­cess­ing plant in Ramea on Aug. 10.

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