It is improbable many Yarmouthians know what takes place in a rather plain, aluminum-sided, large single-level building located a few hundred yards from the IMO Foods processing plant on Water Street.
There are no signs on the building and the only hint of what’s inside is the presence of a Garbo semi-trailer which seems perpetually parked on the property.
Garbo is an American company and a major distributor of lobster and what is held inside this building, during the first few weeks of the LFA 34 lobster fishery, is about a million pounds of live lobsters.
This is the Robert Newell’s lobster pound and during this summer’s Seafest activities, a tour of the facility was on the agenda.
About 30 people ranging in age from a few elderly types with walking canes to a frisky eight-year-old, were gathered outside in a thick fog.
Inside, the visitors were greeted with the sound of rushing water and the smell of live crated lobsters, which is rather unique in itself.
The place looked like an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The tour guide, over the noise of the gurgling water pumped from the adjacent Yarmouth harbour, explained how the place was run.
The ‘pool’ consists of three reference tanks, each 165 feet long, 27 feet wide and 13 feet deep — enabling the facility to hold up to a million pounds of lobsters.
But they’re not dumped into the tanks and left to mingle. They’re separated by colour codes and individually in specialized crates so they cannot touch each other.
Different colours denote different sizes. Orange means small chicken lobsters, while pink are one pounders, blue a pound and a quarter, green a pound and a half, yellow a pound and three quarters and white the two to three pounders, with some of them reaching seven pounds.
At the time of the tour there were over 400,000 lobsters in the tank and the Garbo trailer outside was soon going to be filled with 43,000 pounds destined for New England and then flown to France — a major market for the company. China is also a major client.
The company buys lobster from throughout Atlantic Canada and New England, but the bulk of its business is product from LFA 34, an area which covers from Digby around the coast to Shelburne, N.S.
This is the top producing lobster fishery in the country and things can get rather hectic during the first few weeks of the season opening, which occurs at the end of November.
“Every lobster is sorted by hand. We tried a mechanized system but it didn’t work that well when landings were heavy,” a company official explained.
During the tour, a worker was getting ready to load up the semi. A crane system is used which lifts up individual pallets which are then delivered to the trailer.
Every system has a back-up, including the pumps, transfer pumps, blowers, etc…
The water is kept at 35-37 degrees Fahrenheit, which places the lobster in a dormant state. They can be kept alive in these tanks for up to six months and during this time they aren’t fed which means a bit of a loss in weight.
Lobsters from LFA 34 are kept separately from the others and product brought to the pound at the end of May — the end of the LFA 33-34 fishing season — can be kept until the season restarts in November.