Maine Fair Trade Lobster is aiming to process 9 million pounds of lobster this year and is looking at building employee housing to help boost the size of the work force. PHOTO BY JACQUELINE WEAVER

Lobster processor has new partner, new capital



GOULDSBORO — Maine Fair Trade Lobster, which has been processing lobsters in Prospect Harbor for three years, has formed a new partnership with Forum Capital Group of Jacksonville, Fla., according to a company spokesman.

Maine Fair Trade Lobster, which includes Garbo Lobster, East Coast Seafood and now Forum Capital, is expecting to more than double its production this year to 9 million pounds from 4.3 million pounds in 2013.

The size of Forum Capital’s stake was not disclosed, but Maine Fair Trade Lobster said it will enable the company to add products, improve logistics and increase operating efficiencies.

Maine Fair Trade Lobster also is looking at building employee housing to expand its work force from 150 to possibly as high as 225 employees.

“The right investments in technology and infrastructure will fast forward efficiencies throughout the industry and allow proactive use of valuable industry resources,” said Mike Tourkistas, CEO and president of East Coast Seafood of Topsfield, Mass.

Dave Garbo, president of Garbo Lobster of Groton, Conn., said: “A key component of our plan includes strengthening the companies’ existing vertical network, allowing for maximum use of the product with little or no waste.”

Maine Fair Trade spokesman Christina Ferranti-Clift said Maine Fair Trade currently has 150 employees.

“We’d like to be up at 175 to 225,” she said.

Ferranti-Clift said Maine Fair Trade employees processed 4.3 million pounds of lobster in 2013, 7.5 million pounds in 2014, and expects to process more than 9 million pounds this year.

She said the employee dormitories would be built on a hillside the company owns that overlooks the plant.

Bill Darling, plant manager at Maine Fair Trade, said at a talk before the Gouldsboro Historical Society Sept. 14 that the lobster processing facility has increased its volume dramatically since it opened in 2013.

He said all of the lobster processed is from Maine, other than lobster brought in from Canada when there are insufficient Maine lobster landings.

Darling said East Coast Seafood and Garbo combined have a purchasing power of 30 million pounds of lobster.

East Coast Seafood is a subsidiary of American Holdco Inc., whose companies sell live lobster, fresh and frozen lobster products, fresh and frozen scallops and fin-fish throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

Garbo Lobster is based in Groton, Conn., and sells live lobster worldwide. Garbo is the largest buyer of live lobster in Maine.

Darling said Maine Fair Trade’s customers include, among many others, Legal Seafood and Costco.

He added that Maine Fair Trade was on the verge of entering the market in China as well.

The site of the lobster processing plant in Prospect Harbor was originally a sardine cannery founded in 1906 by E.T. Russell & Co.

Calvin Stinson and Jonas Wass purchased the cannery in 1927. The Stinson family sold the plant to Connors Brothers Ltd. in 2000.

Four years later, Bumble Bee Foods acquired the plant and then sold it to Live Lobster Co. in 2010.

TD Bank foreclosed on the property in 2012 when Live Lobster experienced cash flow problems.

East Coast Seafood and Garbo Lobster purchased the lobster processing plant at auction for $900,000 in September 2012 and started processing lobsters in 2013.

Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]