PEI

P.E.I. halibut hatchery declares bankruptcy, owing $4.7M to government

A company that operates a P.E.I. fish hatchery and grow-out facility has declared bankruptcy, owing millions of dollars to multiple levels of government.

Trustee says there's hope facility will keep operating under new ownership

Juvenile halibut are shown in a tank at a fish farming facility in Victoria-by-the-Sea, P.E.I. Halibut PEI applied for bankruptcy Jan. 14, owing creditors $9.5 million. (CBC)

A company that operates a P.E.I. fish hatchery and grow-out facility has filed for bankruptcy, owing millions of dollars to multiple levels of government.

According to bankruptcy trustee MNP Ltd., Halibut PEI voluntarily filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 14.

The company owes $9.5 million to its creditors, including the P.E.I. government, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Atlantic Fisheries Fund.

On its website, the company says it's been successfully raising halibut at its facility in Victoria-by-the-Sea since 2009, using geothermal salt-water wells, and is capable of producing 250,000 juvenile fish per year.

Paul Pettigrew with MNP says the five remaining employees are still being paid, and the hope is to sell the company to a new owner and allow the plant to remain in operation.

"It is business as usual there," said Pettigrew. "We're going to be marketing the facility and the assets as a going concern, and hopefully find a new operator and owners within the next 30 to 60 days. There has been some really good interest to date."

Pettigrew knows of six to a a dozen potential new owners so far.

He told CBC News he couldn't comment on the factors that led to the company declaring bankruptcy.

Halibut PEI developed its own process to grow halibut in large fibreglass holding tanks fed by geothermal salt-water wells. (CBC)

The P.E.I. government provided financing to the company on a number of occasions over the years, and the company owes $2.1 million on a loan through the Prince Edward Island Century Fund. 

That debt "is secured with a first charge mortgage over the property and equipment at its Victoria site," according to a spokesperson for the provincial Department of Economic Development.

The company also owes $1.6 million to ACOA and $1 million to the Atlantic Fisheries Fund. Those are both unsecured creditors.

Halibut PEI's assets have been valued at $3.2 million.

The first meeting of creditors is to be held Feb. 3 via teleconference.

CBC News called the fish hatchery seeking comment but there was no response.

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