President and chief executive officer Martin Sullivan says the plan is to start with between 12-14 positions for four to five weeks with a possibility of future expansion.
The St. Lawrence plant, Ocean Choice subsidiary Grand Atlantic Seafood Inc, primarily processes crab, but also whelk, which will be the main canned species. There will also be some salt fish — cod, haddock or pollock, initially.
“So, it’s kind of an add to to the existing operation,” Sullivan said. “But we’re hoping to grow that. This is kind of get something started, prove that it can work and then, hopefully, it’ll turn into something bigger down the road.”
Sullivan said the new operation requires a “fair amount” of investment in equipment, some modifications at the plant and training for employees.
“There’s a big training component to this because we’re not doing any canning in Newfoundland right now. We’ll engage the Marine Institute to do the proper training courses with our people on that.”
He said canned whelk is a very popular item in Asian countries, such as Korea.
“We’re supplying the frozen meat product now, but we’re hoping to grow that into actually doing further processing here.”
“So, it’s kind of an add-to to the existing operation, but we’re hoping to grow that.” - Martin Sullivan
Sullivan said the St. Lawrence facility was chosen for the operation mainly because of its proximity to the resource, but suggested other factors also played a role.
“Whelk is one of the big impetuses for this, but also ... we have a good plant, a good workforce, a very co-operative working environment with the people, good management and the town has been very supportive since we’ve been here.”
Mayor Wayde Rowsell indicated The Town of St. Lawrence has a strong relationship with the company and says he is excited by the news.
“We are very encouraged by Ocean Choice International’s strong commitment to the St. Lawrence fish plant operation, and are tremendously pleased with the introduction of a canning factory, which will create diversity and additional employment at the facility.
“We applaud them for introducing secondary processing here and believe this will add to long-term viability and business success of the company,” Rowsell said.
The Southern Gazette