Seafood buyers, processors want Halifax airport facility expanded
People who enjoy seafood want it fresh whether they live in Seabright or Shanghai, which is why a group that represents seafood buyers and processors urged provincial politicians Thursday to lobby for the expansion of the cargo facility at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
"If you're talking about a live product, it has to go on an airplane," Leo Muise, executive director of the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance, told a legislature committee.
Muise said the facility at the airport cannot handle the amount of live lobster that needs to be shipped during peak demand periods such as Christmas and Chinese New Year."It's probably an opportunity lost more than it is a frustration," said Muise.
On its website, Gateway boasts about having a 7,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse it claims is "the largest facility of its kind north of Miami."
'Every minute counts'
That's big, but not big enough, according to Muise, who told the all-party committee that some of his group's 66 member companies have had to find other ways to get their shipments to Asian markets.
"There's just not enough capacity to move the amount of product that has to be moved on any individual day and the result is that product is then trucked to other airports like Logan, like New York, like Toronto to be put in airplanes there," he said.
Osborne Burke, who runs Victoria Co-operative Fisheries out of Neils Harbour, echoed that sentiment.
"The Gateway in Halifax does what they can with what flights they have, but a significant portion of lobsters that come in there are reloaded on trucks to Toronto and Montreal and down the highway and into Boston to be airfreighted," said Burke.
He told the politicians that having Nova Scotia lobster shipped from Boston is counterproductive to the province's efforts to market our homegrown industry.
"Hence our continual challenge in Asia to make them understand that Boston lobster doesn't really come from Boston. It's Nova Scotia lobster that was driven down to Boston and put on a flight," said Burke.
That problem is compounded right now by the fact the ferry from Digby to Saint John, N.B., is undergoing needed repairs so there's no service until the end of March.
According to Muise, that ferry route is "critical."
"It saves about six hours of driving time. With a live product that's going to New York or Boston, every minute counts," he told the committee.
Climate change study needed
The Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance would also like to see the province fund a study of the effects of climate change on their industry.
Muise, a self-described climate change skeptic-turned-believer, said government focus to date has been on land, not water.
"The Federation of Agriculture was given a million dollars in December to study the effects of climate change on dike lands and things of that nature and we were given nada," he said. "For God's sake, I think we've had two hurricanes since Christmas — only we don't call them hurricanes in the wintertime, we just call them nor'easters."
Beyond those major issues, Kerry Cunningham, manager of Sea Star Seafoods, wanted something a little less tangible.
"I wish we would were appreciated," he told the committee at the end of the group's presentation. "If we got the appreciation of what we do, or the love, if you call it that, that Iceland and Norway gives to their fishing industry instead of saying we're the bad guys.
"It would mean something if Nova Scotia embraced the fishery."