Champlain Seafood closes Riverside Lobster in Nova Scotia

The Riverside Lobster plant in Meteghan, Nova Scotia.

Champlain Seafood is permanently closing Riverside Lobster International in Meteghan, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Dieppe, New Brunswick, Canada-based Champlain Financial Corporation acquired Riverside Lobster in August 2017 from Ascendiant Capital Markets. At the time, Riverside processed and sold lobster and scallops to customers in the United States and Canada, as well as 20 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Champlain Financial combined Riverside Lobster with other acquisitions made at the time, including Cheticamp Fisheries, Petit de Grat Packers, Premium Seafoods Limited, Cape Bald Packers, Boston Lobster Company, and Captain Dan’s Seafood, forming subsidiary Champlain Seafood.

Riverside Lobster President and CEO David Deveau told SeafoodSource in February 2019 that Champlain was focused on building a base of complementary assets in Atlantic Canada’s lobster and crab sectors.

"As a result, we'll be able to serve our customers better and strengthen our relationships with our suppliers," LeBlanc said.

However, on 13 February 2024, Champlain said it will not reopen Riverside Lobster’s Meteghan lobster processing facility and its holding and export operations for the upcoming spring season and institute a permanent shutdown of operations. Champlain originally shuttered the Riverside facility in October 2023, announcing it would not process lobster there during the fall 2023 season due to lower lobster landings and overall product availability.

“The lobster processing industry in Atlantic Canada is continuing to see an unprecedented situation, with not enough lobsters to sustain current processing capacity,” Champlain said.

Champlain Seafood Vice President of People and Culture Rachelle Gagnon said lower catches in Maine and Canada's Maritime provinces forced the decision.

"We're seeing lower landings and not necessarily just in this area. We're seeing it from Maine to New Brunswick to Nova Scotia," Gagnon told the CBC. "It's affecting processing facilities and not just Riverside."

Champlain said its employees affected by the shutdown will be offered jobs at other Champlain Seafood facilities. 

“Champlain Seafood understands the impact of this difficult decision on the local community and on its employees,” it said in a press release. “Currently there are a small number of active employees working at RLI and they will continue to be employed to wind down operations over the next few months.”

The plant employed 100 workers, CBC reported. In recent years, the company had received CAD 2.6 million (USD 1.9 million, EUR 1.8 million) in assistance from the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, including a CAD 1 million (USD 738,000, EUR 688,000) loan in 2016 to upgrade to high-pressure food processing equipment and to buy a continuous steam cooker. As recently as 2019, the plant had been short of labor, but it declined to hire 50 foreign workers in the fall of 2023, signaling a shift in production volumes.

Champlain said its other lobster processing facilities, including Cape Bald Packers and Captain Dan’s in New Brunswick, will remain open and will continue to process lobster, crab, clams, and mussels. Under the Cape Bald Packers banner, Champlain built a new processing facility in Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick, in 2019, after separate fires destroyed two of the company’s older plants.

“As a group, we are only trying to do good things. It’s all about supporting growth that is there to build on – improving quality and expanding markets. That vision will be a win for everybody. There’s a great market in lobster, but if you can’t supply it properly or protect it, you lose it in time,” Riverside Lobster President and CEO David Deveau said at the time.

Photo courtesy of Riverside Lobster International


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