Coastal Shell facility to end operations Sunday, citing financial trouble

A shellfish disposal facility that's been subject to complaints and legal action over its odour will cease operations in eastern New Brunswick on Sunday.

That's according to a letter from Coastal Shell general manager Jamie Goguen to notify processors who rely on the plant near Richibucto.

Nat Richard, executive director of the Lobster Processors Association in New Brunswick, confirmed about 10 of his members received the letter announcing the facility closure.

"We had no advance notice," Richard said to Radio-Canada in French. "As you can imagine, the factories are actively working on alternatives for disposing of/processing their shells from Sunday.

"The timing couldn't be worse, right in the middle of the fishing and processing season."

Nat Richard, the executive director of the Lobster Processors Association, says harmonizing with the increased U.S. legal minimum size is a short-term pain for Canada, but it will impact supply entering Canada
Nat Richard, the executive director of the Lobster Processors Association, says the closure of the Coastal Shell plant couldn't come at a worse time. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Goguen's letter cites financial losses as the reason for the company's decision, which he attributes to "operational limitations" imposed by the province.

"As you are aware, the Province of New Brunswick reduced operating hours of Coastal Shell in 2022 following public complaints of odour emanating from the plant," the letter says.

"The latest attempt to have hours increased resulted in the province adding additional costly requirements without any guarantee that we'd be able to continue operating throughout the remainder of this year."

The general manager also said the company has operated at a loss of "over $1.2 million."

Several requests to Goguen and president Omer Gaudet for comment went unanswered on Saturday.

In an email, spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said the province's Department of Environment and Local Government had "received correspondence from the company late Friday afternoon," but did not provide further detail.

The facility, which has been operating since 2016, has prompted complaints and even legal action from residents over the smell and noise.

Coastal Shell attempted to be recognized as an agricultural operation to block a court application to have its plant shut down, but the province's Farm Practices Review Board ruled against it last month.

The Kent Clean Air Action Committee was formed in August 2022 to formally organize against the plant, writing petitions and letters to elected officials.

JoAnne Robichaud, chair of the Kent Clean Air Action Committee, said if the company wants to remain in business, it should move away from residential areas.
JoAnne Robichaud, chair of the Kent Clean Air Action Committee, said she is cautiously optimistic about the news Coastal Shell will halt operations in Richibucto. (JoAnne Robichaud)

Committee chair JoAnne Robichaud, along with six other community members, took legal action against the company after becoming frustrated with the situation.

"It was just insane, the stench was such that it was like burning lobster shells mixed with either burning rubber or some kind of chemical going on there," Robichaud said.

She said Saturday that she is cautiously optimistic about the news Coastal Shell will cease operations.

However, she said, the group will still have work to do in pushing for the land to be rezoned, so that similar circumstances can be avoided.