"We're still getting our footing," says Victor Trafford who, together with his wife Judy, owns Lubec's Wharf Direct seafood buying operation. Wharf Direct currently purchases lobsters, periwinkles and crabs from local fishermen and also serves as an offloading point for sea cucumbers and scallops.
Trafford anticipates entering the clam depuration business "as soon as we get certified." This operation will clear toxins from clams taken from polluted water, opening up beds long closed to local clammers. Currently, clams taken from these beds must be transported to the Portland area, raising their cost to levels where they are not competitive. In order to be licensed "we have to have a scientist on staff," Trafford says, adding that he expects to hire one shortly. The only clams currently sold are taken from beds that are not polluted, he says.
According to a recent pamphlet from the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Public Health Division, depuration will "restore shellfish to a condition where they are safe to eat." The process requires 48 hours in "clean, sterilized water," typically purified with ultraviolet light. The alternative, known as "relaying," requires shellfish to be relocated to uncontaminated beds, where they will eventually purify themselves but remain subject to predators and will need to be dug a second time. According to the DMR brochure, there is currently only one shellfish depuration facility in Maine.
Wharf Direct's Johnson Street facility includes three large holding tanks, kept filled with ocean water circulating from the nearby bay. One tank is currently used for wholesale lobster operations; shellfish depuration is planned for the second. "We can refrigerate the third one," says Trafford, which will then allow long‑term lobster storage so that the firm can take advantage of seasonal price fluctuations.
Lobster processing planned
Another planned venture is to establish a lobster and crab processing facility, which may provide four more jobs in addition to the three already in place. "We're hoping to get that up and running next year," Trafford says.
Additionally, Trafford is increasing freezer space to allow long‑term storage of processed lobster and crab meat as well as scallops. He also is planning to purchase a refrigerated truck to allow the company to transport product to "where the price is best."
The seafood processing operation is housed in the lower part of the former sardine plant that also includes The Inn on the Wharf, which provides lodging and a restaurant. "Inn and restaurant visitors like to watch the fishing operations," Trafford says.