Plant to can its last sardine Thursday

Posted April 14, 2010, at 9:46 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:45 a.m.

GOULDSBORO, Maine — More than 100 years of history is expected to come to an end today when the last can of locally produced sardines rolls off the conveyor belt at the Stinson Seafood plant in Prospect Harbor.

The plant, owned by San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods, is the last remaining sardine cannery in the U.S. It has been operating since the early 1900s, when hundreds of canneries dotted Maine’s coast.

Bumble Bee has said that reductions in the federal quota for herring, which are called sardines when they are canned as food, are to blame for the closure. The federal limit has been reduced from 180,000 metric tons in 2004 to 91,000 metric tons this year, which Bumble Bee says is not enough to keep the plant profitable.

Peter Colson, the plant’s manager, said the final day of packaging canned sardines into boxes will be Friday. The sardines that are canned today have to sit overnight after being cooked before they can be boxed for shipping, he said.

“It will be one of the saddest days we’ve ever had,” Colson said of the plant’s final day of canning. “It’s not going to be easy.”

The plant’s 128 employees are being offered job retraining and placement assistance by the state Department of Labor. The Governor’s Office has been working closely with Bumble Bee on finding a new owner and seafood product for the plant, but officials have been mum about which firms have expressed an interest in the facility.

Those discussions are still under way, officials said this week.

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