Maine seafood business stuck in limbo due to shutdown

Published on
January 23, 2019

The ongoing partial shutdown of the U.S. government, which is entering its second month, has caused headaches for Leslie Harlow, the owner of Hancock, Maine-based Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse.

Harlow, who is seeking to reopen the salmon smoking operation after it closed several years ago, is awaiting licensing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after a final inspection took place in December.

“Our final paperwork is sitting on the desk of an FDA inspector, who currently is not working due to the shutdown,” Harlow said. 

Harlow said she wasn’t worried at the beginning of the shutdown about possible delays to the opening of her operation, which has capacity to produce 100,000 pounds of cold-smoked salmon. But as it has dragged on, the costs of stasis are mounting. Harlow said she just paid for HACCP training for her five employees, on top of monthly oil and electric bills, as well as other costs.

“Now I don’t have any work for them,” Harlow told SeafoodSource on Wednesday, 23 January. “For a couple of weeks, I was like, ‘OK, we’ll just go into a holding pattern.’ But now I’m just feeling like this has gone way too far. It’s not acceptable.”

In January, Harlow began reaching out to her elected representatives to see if they could help. U.S. Senator Angus King took notice, sending out a message of support via Twitter on 4 January.

"Every day this partial shutdown continues, Maine people are being hurt. In Hancock, the Sullivan Harbor Farm has been forced to remain closed while awaiting final FDA approval — meaning that the business's employees can't collect a paycheck,” King said, Mainebiz reported.

But on 23 January, Harlow called for more to be done to help her and others stuck in similar situations due to the shutdown.

“We are at the beck and call of the FDA being open,” she said. “The fact that we had come this far, only to get stuck – I'm feeling like I want to have a nervous breakdown.”

On the 30th day of the shutdown, an exasperated Harlow tried a different tack, placing an enticing offer on the Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse Facebook page: free packages of smoked salmon for all furloughed workers. 

“Including our FDA inspectors,” Harlow added at the end of the message.

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