All in on cod: Icewater Seafoods bets its future on the iconic fish
Arnold's Cove company investing $10M in high-tech plant
The president and CEO of Icewater Seafoods in Arnold's Cove wants more cod.
"I can sell it, we can produce it, we just need more raw material," Alberto Wareham told CBC News.
He said his company is investing $10 million over three years to buy the latest cod-processing technology, and claims Icewater is the only North American processor dedicated full-time to Atlantic cod production.
I can sell it, we can produce it, we just need more raw material.- Alberto Wareham
Seventy-five per cent of the $10 million is coming in the form of conditionally repayable loans from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Atlantic Fisheries Fund.
The money is being used to buy equipment from Germany and Iceland, including a heading, filleting and skinning machine, as well as new equipment to make slush ice for fish harvesters.
Once the cod enters the processing line, it can be deboned and processed in just four minutes with the latest purchase from Iceland, the $1.6-million FleXicut, which uses X-ray technology, said Wareham.
Wareham said 99.8 per cent of the fish is used, ending up as fillets, fish sticks or pet food.
Last year Icewater Seafoods processed 5,000 tonnes of cod, though the plant has the capacity to produce more than 11,000 tonnes, and Wareham is banking on the recovery of the northern cod stock.
While cod biomass has increased significantly since the moratorium in 1992, it's still in Fisheries and Oceans Canada's "critical" zone.
In order to sell critical-zone product into European markets, Icewater Seafoods and other processors are taking part in the Northern Cod Fisheries Improvement Project, which monitors the fish's migratory patterns and behaviour through an underwater acoustic tracking and tagging.
Having the cod fishery certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council is the ultimate goal.
A family affair
Wareham says the company — a family business that began in nearby Harbour Buffett in 1823 — is all in on cod.
"I'm the seventh generation of our family and the eighth generation just joined. It's all we know, I guess. We're in the cod business. When other plants focused on crab or shrimp, we stuck with cod."
The company, which has a staff of 215 people, has focused on cod production since 1979, even through the moratorium years, buying fish from other countries when there was no local fish.
"We say we have 215 cod experts here. They don't know nothing about shrimp, they don't know nothing about crab, but they know a lot about cod. We're sort of all in on cod and we see a future in the cod."