GOULDSBORO, Maine — Maine Fair Trade Lobster, the lobster processor that last year took over operations at the former Stinson Seafood and Live Lobster plant in the local village of Prospect Harbor, is shutting down the facility temporarily in order to add more capacity at the site, according to company officials.
In a prepared statement released Friday, the firm said the project is expected to increase capacity at the plant by 50 percent. The company did not specifically say how long the project might take to complete but did indicate the plant is expected to be fully operational this spring.
“As winter months are historically slow for the lobster industry and with most production facilities normally closed, the company looks forward to a timely execution of this exciting project,” company officials said in the statement. “The focus must be on the coming spring and substantial increases in production and employment for the local area of Maine.”
Most production employees will be given notice of temporary layoffs, the statement indicated.
Maine Fair Trade Lobster officials said that the plant employed more than 130 people and processed more than 4 million pounds of lobster in 2013, its first year of operations. The enterprise is a joint operation between Connecticut-based Garbo Lobster and East Coast Seafood of Topsfield, Mass.
Garbo Lobster and East Coast Seafood acquired the 100,000 square-foot former sardine cannery at a foreclosure auction in September 2012 for $900,000. TD Bank had taken possession of the plant from Live Lobster after the bank froze the checking accounts of the Chelsea, Mass.-based company and then filed suit against the firm in federal court in Massachusetts.
Live Lobster had acquired the facility from Bumble Bee Foods in March 2011 after Bumble Bee shut it down and moved the sardine canning equipment to its Connors Bros. subsidiary in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick. When the sardine cannery closed down on April 15, 2010, it employed 128 people and was the last remaining sardine cannery in the United States.
Ray Jones, chairman of the Gouldsboro planning board, said Saturday that the work being done by Maine Fair Trade Lobster will take place in a part of the facility that previously had been used for storage and distribution. Because the work is being done inside the existing building with no expansion of the building’s footprint, the project does not have to be approved by the planning board, he said.
A few months ago, the company received approval from the planning board for a project that increased the electrical power supply to the plant, Jones said. The power upgrade will supply electricity to the equipment being installed as part of the current project, he said.