EASTPORT, Maine — Workers in Eastport are putting the finishing touches on a massive 6,000-square-foot indoor lobster pound that when completed in May will be able to store as many as 125,000 hardshell lobsters.
The project is the brainchild of David Pottle, who has been pulling lobster traps for 25 years. Construction of what he expects will be a $500,000 project is being modeled after a virtually identical facility at SeaKist Lobster in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Collectively, two tanks at the facility will hold 170,000 gallons of seawater that can be filtered, flow regulated and climate controlled in terms of water temperature. Lobsters will be banded, sorted by size and packed into pallets that will be stacked seven feet high beneath 9.5 feet of water, with each pallet holding as many as 1,200 pounds of the tasty crustaceans.
Unlike outdoor lobster pounds, his facility’s ability to control the water temperature and quality will greatly reduce lobster mortality, Pottle said.
“In a traditional lobster pound, you can lose anywhere from 10 to as many as 21 percent of the lobsters in storage,” he said. “I expect with climate control, that I’ll lose fewer than half of 1 percent.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Pottle gave U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud a guided tour of the complex that sits on a three-acre site where County Road dead-ends into Cobscook Bay’s Prince Cove.
“I’m extremely impressed,” Michaud said. “The lobster industry means a lot to coastal communities, and it’s great to have a facility like this in Maine, rather than see these lobsters go to Canada. This will be great for Eastport and may have a ripple effect in terms of creating more economic activity. It’s always great to see small business people building a new business.”
Once completed, Pottle said his Lighthouse Lobster and Bait company will employ as many as six people, some of them seasonally.
Also touring the project Wednesday was Bonnie Smith, manager of the Calais branch of Bangor Savings Bank, which may help finance the facility. For now, Pottle said, he’s covering construction costs.
“David was born and raised here, and he knows the lobster business inside and out,” Smith said. “People are impressed not only with this community having a new business, but with the way David’s been thinking out of the box in putting this together.”
Pottle said he plans to build a wharf that extends into Prince Cove. Virtually all of the lobsters he will have on inventory within the 6,000-square-foot pound will be sold to Inland Seafood, which is headquartered in Atlanta.
Pottle’s new business is located on the site of the former Consea factory, which was used since the early 1900s as a salt works and sardine factory. It has been abandoned since at least the late 1960s. The hulk of a building was razed last year at a cost of more than $40,000. Those demolition costs and associated site cleanup costs were covered with funds provided by the Washington County Council of Goverments as part of $400,000 the council received in 2009 through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield Assessment Grant Program.