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February 6, 2019

Purchase of Latin American shrimp company advances Cooke Inc.’s diversification strategy

Courtesy / Cooke Inc.
Courtesy / Cooke Inc.
Cooke Inc., which has extensive salmon-farming operations in Maine, has expanded its product diversity with acquisition of Latin American shrimp farmer Seajoy Seafood Corp. Seen here are employees operating at Cooke’s Newfoundland site.

Cooke Inc., an aquaculture company based in New Brunswick that has salmon farms and hatcheries in Maine, has acquired Seajoy Seafood Corp. group, one of the largest vertically integrated premium shrimp farms in Latin America.

The acquisition of Seajoy is an important element in Cooke's focus on product diversification, according to a Feb. 1 news release.

"Seajoy is a world-leading shrimp producer utilizing the highest quality and food safety standards and newest available technology," said Glenn Cooke, CEO of Blacks Harbour, N.B.-based Cooke Inc. "This aligns perfectly with our existing aquaculture and wild seafood fishery divisions."

Seajoy produces value-added and organic Pacific white shrimp and sells to customers in Europe, the Americas and Asia. The company has 1,400 employees and runs operations from "egg to plate." Seajoy's shrimp farms are located in Honduras and Nicaragua, and include processing plants, hatcheries and breeding programs.

Seajoy was founded in Ecuador in 1979. The Cooke family started Cooke Aquaculture in New Brunswick in 1985.

Both companies are private family-owned businesses, and the terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

According to SeafoodSource, the acquisition was completed in November, but the formal announcement came after the companies finalized the transaction details.

Strong footprint in Maine

Cooke Inc. is the parent company of Cooke Aquaculture, which has been running salmon farming operations in Downeast Maine for more than a decade, since buying the East Coast operations of some of its biggest competitors, including Atlantic Salmon of Maine, Heritage Salmon and Stolt Sea Farm (which later became Marine Harvest). Because the companies were in financial difficulty, the acquisitions became turnaround operations that saved hundreds of jobs.

Today, Cooke has salmon farms in Eastport, Machiasport and points south, including Black Island South, near Bar Harbor. Cooke also operates three freshwater hatcheries at Gardner Lake, Bingham and Oquossoc. Value-added processing takes place at the Machiasport facility, giving Cooke a fully-integrated operation within Maine.

Cooke Aquaculture also has salmon farming operations in Washington, Atlantic Canada, Chile and Scotland, as well as sea bass and sea bream farming operations in Spain.

In 2008, Maine's salmon farming industry was in a slump after it peaked in 2000. New aquaculture regulations, put in place to protect wild salmon populations and the ocean environment, imposed hurdles to the industry's growth. But Cooke's willingness to embrace new rules and its focus on environmental sustainability helped revitalize the industry.

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