NL

Quinlan Brothers, Grieg celebrate new partnership with unveiling of new salmon line in Bay de Verde

A Newfoundland and Labrador seafood processing giant, Quinlan Brothers, has teamed up with a growing player in the province's aquaculture industry to establish a state-of-the-art salmon plant in Bay de Verde.

Quinlan Brothers partner with Grieg Seafood to bring farmed Placentia Bay salmon to market

Two men pose with a large atlantic salmon. The men are dressed in blue jackets and wearing hair nets.
Robin Quinlan, left, president of Quinlan Brothers, and Per Grieg, board chairman with Norway's Grieg Seafood ASA, show off a freshly harvested farmed Atlantic salmon in Bay de Verde on Tuesday. The two companies officially launched a new partnership this week that will see the Quinlans' Bay de Verde plant process and package the salmon harvested from sea cages in Placentia Bay. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

A unique partnership between a well-known Newfoundland and Labrador seafood company and an aquaculture giant from Norway was on full display in the remote Conception Bay North community of Bay de Verde this week.

With wide-eyed invited guests looking on, thousands of freshly harvested farmed Atlantic salmon — each measuring about the length of a baseball bat and weighing about as much as a large bag of flour — were pumped from a truck and onto a fancy new processing line at the Quinlan Brothers seafood plant.

Dozens of workers — a blend of locals, temporary foreign workers from countries like Thailand and Mexico, and new Canadians — busily processed and packaged the thick, shiny fish for shipment to hungry markets throughout North America.

The scene was nearly 10 years in the making, marking the first commercial harvest by Grieg Seafood Newfoundland from its sea cages in Placentia Bay. It also marked the official launch of a new partnership between Grieg and Quinlan Brothers.

"These first months have set the stage for many years of great work between our companies," Robin Quinlan, president of Quinlan Brothers, told a room full of guests.

Gutted and packaged in Bay de Verde

Since 2014, Grieg has invested more then $200 million to establish a hatchery and smolt facility in Marystown and sea cages in Placentia Bay.

Eggs that were hatched roughly three years ago have now grown into fish that weigh between eight and 10 pounds. Grieg started harvesting the fish about six weeks ago and has begun delivering them to the new Quinlan Brothers processing line in Bay de Verde.

salmon moving along the production line.
Freshly harvested farmed Atlantic salmon move along the new processing line at the Quinlan Brothers seafood plant in Bay de Verde on Tuesday. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

The fish are gutted at the plant, packaged with ice in Styrofoam boxes and trucked to market. The time from harvest to packaging takes an average of six to eight hours.

Future plans call for more value added processing, including fillets.

Roughly 5,000 tonnes are expected to be harvested this year, increasing to 15,000 tonnes over the next two or three years. In the long term, Grieg hopes to grow its annual production to 45,000 tonnes and is now seeking partners to help make that happen.

A year-round operation

The Bay de Verde plant, operating seasonally from April to August, is the busiest crab processing facility in the province. 

The old plant was destroyed by fire in 2016, and when it was rebuilt a year later, one-third of the facility remained undeveloped for future use.

That open space became the answer when Grieg went looking for a partner last year to process and package its fish.

The Quinlan Brothers have invested more than $16 million into the new processing line, including a $6-million contribution from the Atlantic Fisheries Fund. 

a wide shot of aquaculture buildings in Marystown.
Grieg Seafood Newfoundland has established a freshwater and smolt facility in Marystown. (Paula Gale/CBC)

With salmon processing expected to take place from October to January or February, the Bay de Verde plant is now essentially a year-round operation. And while there are other plants in the province — Hermitage and Harbour Breton  — that also process farmed salmon, Bay de Verde is thought to be the only plant processing both wild and farmed seafood.

"We've never had this much activity in Bay de Verde at this time of year. Usually we're winding down. But now we're winding up," said Quinlan.

Grieg Seafood ASA board chairman Per Grieg described Placentia Bay as possessing the "perfect condition for salmon farming." He's confident Grieg Seafood Newfoundland can become a North American player in a market dominated by farmed salmon from Norway, Scotland and Chile.

One of the requirements for the company to operate in the province is that it stocks its cages with triploid salmon that are unable to reproduce, which ensures they cannot genetically contaminate wild salmon stocks if they escape their cages.

Grieg said he was initially skeptical about such a requirement.

"[But] we are very happy that we made that choice because it seems that this fish are very adaptable."

The Bay de Verde plant will be producing roughly 100 tonnes of salmon each day, with two shifts of 50 workers each.

Robin Quinlan said the new salmon venture provides extra opportunities for employment and business growth in rural Newfoundland.

"We owe the success of this launch to the loyalty and productivity of our employees and their willingness to welcome new Canadians and foreign workers to achieve this goal," said Quinlan.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, based in St. John’s. He previously worked for the Telegram, the Compass and the Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at Terry.Roberts@cbc.ca.

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