ICO News

New Bedford cannery to employ European model in seafood … – SouthCoastToday.com


NEW BEDFORD — One of only a handful of seafood canneries in the nation has opened in New Bedford, capable of producing thousands of cans of local seafood products per day.

Island Creek Oysters, founded in the early 1990s by Skip Bennett, has opened the cannery at a 10,000-square-foot building at 38 Blackmer St.

The Duxbury-based company that’s grown into an internationally recognized aquaculture business selling millions of oysters around the world in the past 25 years has also moved its distribution operation to the site.

The Island Creek Cannery was welcomed with open arms by Mayor Jon Mitchell during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

New Bedford ‘right’ place to open cannery

Mitchell said, “This is a very unique business in the U.S., and New Bedford is the right place to open it up.”

He said ICO revitalized the oyster business, and now brings its history of success — as well as jobs and tax revenue — to New Bedford. “Island Creek Oysters is all about excellence.”

Island Creek Oysters CEO Christopher Sherman reciprocated the sentiment, “We’re over the moon to be a part of this historic community.”

The infrastructure and labor market have been ideal for the new cannery, he said. City officials also helped ICO make the move to New Bedford.

Tinning seafood at peak freshness for affordable product

Seafood is seasonal, Sherman said, with peak periods of abundant harvests.

But only so much can be marketed in a given period, he said.

The European market has long taken advantage of tinning seafood products at their peak freshness to provide a long-term shelf life.

Tinning shellfish and fish in the Spanish conservas tradition, where the shellfish and fish are preserved in olive oil, brine, and other sauces, also provides a gourmet experience – not something you just smear on a sandwich.

By harvesting local seafood products, the Island Creek Cannery can produce premium seafoods that consumers can buy and enjoy in a variety of settings.

Sherman said the prices won’t be “fancy” either, given the direct access to local seafood producers and local production.

He said they look forward to partnering with Coastal Foodshed, a non-profit that provides local farm produce to the Greater New Bedford and Fall River markets, in providing “healthy, affordable seafood.”

Sherman credited a state Food Security Infrastructure grant for helping to make the cannery possible. The grant’s goal is to provide equitable access to food produced locally, according to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs website.

Providing the world with food through aquaculture

That dovetails with ICO’s mission of meeting the globe’s ever-escalating food demands through aquaculture.

Coastal communities maintaining a strong connection to local seafood production can thrive “for centuries,” Sherman said.

“I can’t think of any better place than New Bedford” to continue that mission, he said.

Mitchell agreed, saying, “We pride ourselves in New Bedford in being the seafood capital of America. We are hands down the highest grossing fishing port in the U.S. We have the largest seafood processing base in the United States. We are to seafood what Omaha is to beef.”

The ribbon-cutting adjourned to a tour of the facility, that included a spread of cannery products and oysters laid out for those in attendance.

Robert Chandler, ICO director of operations, said about 8,000 tins can be produced daily, and products currently include oysters, razor clams, and hardshell clams. Mussels are also a possibility, he said.


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