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January 30, 2019

Substantial expansion planned for Prospect Harbor lobster processing plant

Courtesy / East Coast Seafood Group
Courtesy / East Coast Seafood Group
Topsfield, Mass.-based East Coast Seafood Group plans a substantial expansion for its Maine Fair Trade Lobster processing facility in Prospect Harbor, following the closing of the corporation's Groton, Conn., facility.

Consolidation of East Coast Seafood Group's live lobster packing operations is expected to result in substantial expansion of the corporation's facility in Prospect Harbor.

East Coast Seafood, headquartered in Topsfield, Mass., announced the relocation of Garbo Lobster, its live lobster packing facilities in Groton, Conn., effective Jan. 17, according to a Jan. 16 news release.

Most of the work being carried out at the Garbo Lobster operation will be absorbed by Maine Fair Trade Lobster, East Coast's subsidiary operation in Prospect Harbor, according to the release.

East Coast Seafood and Garbo Lobster partnered in 2012 when they acquired the 100,000-square-foot Prospect Harbor facility, which was a former Bumble Bee Foods facility that was the last operating sardine cannery in the United States.

East Coast plans to make "substantial new investments" in the Prospect Harbor facility, aimed to increase production capacity, optimize the production process and enhance labor needs, the release says.

The remainder of Garbo's work is shifting to East Coast's new state-of-the-art lobster processing line in New Bedford, Mass., the release says.

"The expansion in Maine and additional investments in the Massachusetts operation will enhance East Coast Seafood Group's entire operational model and is forecasted to increase workforces across the company's subsidiaries," the release says.

With respect to the Garbo workforce, East Coast is offering positions at subsidiary locations where possible, absorbing benefit costs of covered employees for a period of time, offering severance to each employee affected and providing recommendation letters and other support requested by employees during their transition, the release says.

According to the Maine Fair Trade Lobster page on the East Coast website, Maine Fair Trade has created hundreds of jobs from wharf to production. Maine Fair Trade Lobster offers geographical advantage for global distribution hubs.

The Prospect Harbor plant is one of the largest processors of live lobster in Maine, with a high of 170 employees to date. The plan was originally built in 1906 and rebuilt in 1968 following a fire. Located in one of Maine's largest lobster landing counties, the facility was purchased in 1927 by Calvin Stinson and used as a sardine cannery until 2010. Changing hands a few times, the plant continued operations as one of the U.S.'s last sardine processing facilities. After the departure of the cannery, new owners retrofitted the plant for lobster processing and set the stage for what today is Maine Fair Trade Lobster.

According to its website, East Coast Seafood sells live and frozen lobster and seafood throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. East Coast Seafood also owns and operates Paturel International Co., with processing facilities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. East Coast Seafood Group has over $400 million in annual sales is among the top 15 North American seafood suppliers.

Garbo Lobster was in business over 30 years, sold live lobster worldwide and was the biggest buyer of live lobster in Maine. It has an additional facility in Hancock, 15 miles from the Prospect Harbor facility.

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