Province researching seafood cold storage at Gander International, Port aux Basques

·2 min read

The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources is looking into creating new areas for cold storage of live seafood in the province, allowing more product headed for international markets to come directly from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The provincial government announced $100,000 to determine the feasibility of creating cold storage facilities in Port aux Basques and at Gander International Airport Monday.

Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne said the idea is centred around creating cold storage for live products like lobsters and oysters.

"During COVID-19, we really not only faced some market challenges but some transportation challenges, especially in lobster," Byrne told CBC Radio's The Broadcast Wednesday.

"This is really about live product, so this is not about fast-frozen cold storage or freezer cold storage, this is mostly about … storage for fresh product and for live product. Lobster, oysters, blue mussels including scallop … and so the best and strongest location to be able to put all that of course is Gander International Airport."

He said adding cold storage facilities in a community such as Port aux Basques also can benefit transportation, as product would have a reliable place to be stored if weather conditions limited travel.

Byrne said storing lobsters at Gander International would allows them to maintain Newfoundland and Labrador authenticity, which could help the province's seafood brand grow.

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

"We ship just about all of our lobster to the mainland where it's homogenized. Newfoundland lobster becomes a Nova Scotia lobster, or at least it's branded and marketed as part of the Nova Scotia lobster," he said.

"Well what if we started to amass our own product, brand it as Newfoundland and Labrador lobster or Newfoundland and Labrador oyster, and start shipping it to China as a Newfoundland and Labrador product?"

"That is the brilliance of this idea," he added. "I am in for a penny, in for a pound. It's brilliant."

Simon Jarding, managing director with Royal Greenland's Quin-Sea Fisheries, said the initiative could prove to be a boost for the province's lobster industry.

The group, which ships Newfoundland lobsters across the country via an online store, said moving live product can create challenges that could be solved through more cold storage locations.

"We're sort of put a little outside the big map sometimes. We're on an island and it creates challenges," Jarding told The Broadcast Thursday. "I think we can maybe act like an icebreaker, and I hope a lot of businesses would pick up on the lobster industry as well."

"The more the merrier, and infrastructure is a huge part of it. So I really welcome that initiative."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador