1 fish, 2 fish, 3 fish: 4 new species to be harvested in Ramea and expand operating season
Ownership also plans to bring in training program to train locals to dive for sea urchin
A fish processing plant in Ramea has been granted a license by government to process four new types of species including sea cucumber, sea urchin, whelk and lumpfish.
The plant, owned by Labrador Gem Seafood, initially processed scallops, but has had its operational ups and downs in the past, laying vacant at one point for a nearly four-year period.
Now, ownership hopes that by adding new species to its processing operation, they can expand the season for their plant workers, give better kickbacks to their harvesters, and bring some job stability to the area on Newfoundland's south coast.
"These are the species that we're going to be concentrating on to try and expand the processing season at Ramea for our wonderful workers, and also to give more revenue to our fishermen who are going to try to harvest these species near the Ramea facility," said Danny Dumaresque, owner of Labrador Gem Seafood.
New licenses needed
However, there is still work to be done before Dumaresque and company cash in on their first product.
Dumaresque told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning that there are presently no sea urchin-licensed harvesters in the Burgeo-Ramea-Francois-Grey River area, where his company plans to concentrate harvesting efforts.
However, he said he's working closely with the DFO to potentially release new licenses to begin harvesting and processing operations.
"We are looking forward to that process being put in place very soon so that we can have resident harvesters," he said.
What's more, the only way that the DFO allows for the harvest of sea urchin is by manually diving for the world-renowned delicacy.
Dumaresque said he has an idea to help the process along.
"We also want to concentrate on having a training program in place that we could have local people who showed an interest to be trained as professional sea urchin divers, and that then will be complimented by market specialists that will come from Japan to our facility and implement a training program for the workers," he said.
"It's a very labour-intensive process and it's a very complex one."
If all goes as planned, Dumaresque hopes that the new species his company will be processing will take the Ramea plant from a five-to-six month operation and turn it into a nine-to-10 month operation, adding extra months of work for employees on both the harvesting and processing side of the operation.
Dumaresque believes that with the explosion of sushi demand in North America his products will sell without question.
But there are also always the conventional markets in China and Japan, which he said have an appetite for sea urchin and sea cucumber specifically.
"Most of them are in the Asian market. Sea urchin in particular, or uni, is a very, very highly sought delicacy in Japan and is now certainly being consumed much more in the sushi bars," he said.
"China is certainly a big consumer of the sea cucumber meat."
As for this season, Dumaresque said it's going to be a bit experimental. They will only harvest the new species on a small scale to provide samples and education, and to figure out best practices moving forward — all after the scallop season closes.
"This year if you want to come to Ramea in late fall you can try uni from Ramea," he said, "and maybe sea cucumber too."
With files from Newfoundland Morning