Sea cucumber might not be a well-known species in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it is considered a luxury item in Asian cultures – something that has resulted in a relatively new fishery for the province.
In the fall of 2012, Ocean Choice’s processing facility in St. Lawrence accepted its first landing of sea cucumber from a local in-shore fisher from the area – a fisher that Ocean Choice still works with today. Being close to the fishing grounds for sea cucumber, it made perfect sense to add sea cucumber production at our facility in St. Lawrence. Plus, the 150 people employed at the facility are always up for a new challenge!
“The employees working at our St. Lawrence facility are extremely innovative and open-minded,” said Gary Pike, St. Lawrence Plant Manager. “They face change with a positive attitude and are always looking for new and improved ways of doing things. Given sea cucumber was something new, not only for Ocean Choice, but the industry as a whole, we knew the plant in St. Lawrence was the perfect home for this species.”
Sea Cucumber is harvested by inshore fishers between the months of May and October, when other species are winding down. This is a win-win – the fishers get to harvest for more months out of the year and our employees have the opportunity to work for a longer season.
When Ocean Choice first started processing sea cucumber, most of the product was cleaned, frozen in its whole form and shipped to markets. Today, with the use of new technology and an innovative approach to processing that was developed in-house by Ocean Choice employees; the majority of the sea cucumber that passes through the St. Lawrence plant is now dried – a process that takes anywhere from 18 to 30 hours, depending on the size of the cucumber!
Ocean Choice exports its sea cucumber to Asian markets, mainly China, where it is considered a delicacy and is customarily given as a gift in the Chinese culture. It is typically consumed dry or is rehydrated to be used in soups and other dishes. Just recently Ocean Choice expanded its sea cucumber exports into the North American market, with sales to a retail chain in the United States. Our sales team continues to look for new market opportunities for sea cucumber.
“As a sales team, we are always looking for new opportunities to expand our efforts,” says Shane Sullivan, Product Manager with Ocean Choice, “When it comes to sea cucumber, for example, there is an opportunity to sell to smaller ethic-focused retail stores in North America.”
Our St. Lawrence Plant has traditionally processed many different species including snow crab and Greenland halibut, to name a few. The facility employs approximately 150 people from St. Lawrence and surrounding areas and is close to fishing grounds.