New Brunswick seafood giant Cooke Aquaculture got even bigger on Tuesday, with its acquisition of a Houston, Texas company and its workforce of 1,000 people.

Cooke Aquaculture acquired Omega Protein Corp. in a $500 million USD deal — approximately $650 million (Canadian) — in one of the single largest foreign investment deals a New Brunswick company has ever done in the United States.

"It's the single largest acquisition [our] company has ever made," said Joel Richardson, vice-president of communications for Cooke.

"When a New Brunswick company reaches beyond our borders and acquires a company outside our province, it helps strengthen jobs back here and at home."

joel richardson

Joel Richardson, vice-president of communications for Cooke Aquaculture, said Omega Protein makes "a really nice addition to the Cooke family companies." (Sarah Trainor/CBC)

Omega Protein, founded in the early 1900s, is a fishing company that sources omega oils and specialty protein products for both nutritional supplements and animal feeds.

They operate over 30 boats off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, near Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia, and catch a forage fish called menhaden, which is rich in omega fatty acids.

Omega Protein also has five manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S., one in Canada and one in Europe.

"We believe this is going to make a really nice addition to the Cooke family of companies," said Richardson.

Omega Closing signing

Cooke Aquaculture CEO, Glenn Cooke, and Omega Protein President and CEO, Bret Scholtes signed the acquisition agreement on Tuesday, joined by representatives from both companies. (Cooke Aquaculture)

The animal feed ingredients produced by Omega Protein are a key component in Cooke's production of farmed Atlantic salmon.

"We are buying from Omega now, the fish meal product, which is a big piece of the fish meal we use to feed our salmon," said Richardson.

"So we essentially bought one of our suppliers, and the Cooke family is very excited about it."

Grown workforce overnight

The 1,000 employees acquired in the deal will be added to Cooke's 5,000 employees worldwide. 

"We've grown our workforce overnight … I think the Cooke family should be very proud of the work they've done to grow it, the employees work extremely hard through all our operations, not just here at home in New Brunswick but globally," Richardson said.

"I think we are looking at the right trajectory to grow the company, and grow it on a global basis."

The Cooke family of companies include Kelly Cove Salmon, True North Salmon, GMG Fish Services Ltd., Shoreland Transport, and Charlotte Feeds & Northeast Nutrition.

About 1,000 members of its workforce reside in New Brunswick, most in Charlotte County, where its head office is based in Blacks Harbour.

"Those jobs will remain and get stronger in New Brunswick," Richardson said.

"We just closed on the purchase yesterday, but what it will mean in terms of job creation back here at home, I suspect we'll be working on it the next little bit."

The corporation has salmon farming operations in Atlantic Canada, Maine and Washington, Chile ,and Scotland as well as seabass and seabream farming operations in Spain.

Aquaculture operations include land-based juvenile production, marine farms, processing and distribution facilities and a global sales and marketing team.

With files from Information Morning Saint John