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Sea cucumber expansion at Clearwater’s Grand Bank plant will mean more work

Sea cucumbers during processing.
Sea cucumbers during processing. - SaltWire File Photo

Employment boost

GRAND BANK, N.L. —

They’re among the strangest creatures in the ocean, considered a delicacy in Asia and are very lucrative for those who catch and process them.

Sea cucumbers are also creating jobs in Grand Bank.

“We see it as a great opportunity,” said Christine Penney, the vice-president of sustainability and public affairs with Clearwater Seafoods.

The Nova Scotia-based company is currently completing upgrades at its plant in Grand Bank — used primarily to process Arctic surf clams — to ramp up processing of sea cucumbers beginning this summer.

Penney told The Southern Gazette on Monday, April 1, Clearwater has had a licence for some time but processing was minimal.

“With the quota increase this year and what we’ve learned about the market, we feel this is a great opportunity for us to get going and make some investments to have a broader sea cucumber operation in Grand Bank,” she said.

Phil Barnes, who was previously the general manager of the Fogo Island Co-operative Society, has been brought on board for the operation in Grand Bank, Penney confirmed.

Processing of sea cucumbers will translate into 19 positions at the facility, she said.

“Some of those will be rounding out opportunities for existing employees and some of them will be new,” Penney explained.

Council excited, too

Sea cucumbers have been harvested on St. Pierre Bank in fishing zone 3Ps since 2003.

It began with an initial allocation of 454 tonnes, which was gradually increased over the next decade to 2,242 tonnes in 2013.

Last year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) set the quota at 6,016 tonnes, bumping it up a further 1,000 tonnes for 2019.

The fishing season for sea cucumbers runs from June 1 to Dec. 31.

The prospect of more jobs at the Clearwater plant in Grand Bank has the town’s council excited, as well.

The added employment will be of great benefit to the community, Mayor Rex Matthews said during council’s meeting on March 25.

“From our perspective and the community’s perspective, it’s going to mean a lot more activity down to the harbour,” he noted.

Sea cucumbers are like squid in that their condition deteriorates rapidly once they are caught, Coun. Jack Burfitt pointed out.

“Having it close by so you can get it processed immediately is an important thing to keep top-quality product,” he acknowledged.

“We’re hoping in the first year we’re going to get ten to 14 vessels that will be selling to the company here, and, you know, that could mean up to two-million pounds, which is a great start,” Matthews said.

paul.herridge@southerngazette.ca

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