Date: March 29, 2007
Author: Jamie Baker
Origin: The Telegram

If you didn't know exactly where it was, you might drive right past it and not even know.

Nestled alongside the Fishery Products International (FPI) shrimp off-loading operation and Woodman's Sea Products plant in South Dildo, the Carino Co. seal processing plant practically hides in plain sight.

It's a plain-Jane operation - no splashy signs, no huge indicators.

This is how the Norwegian-owned company has been doing business in this province for 50 years; quietly, calmly, and without the limelight or fanfare that some other processors appear to savour.

"There's enough people making noise, so we don't need to be making it ourselves, as well," Carino spokesman Knut Nygaard joked. The company's primary efforts are focused on other areas.

Active marketing

"We are very active in the markets, though, when it comes to marketing the furs and leathers from the seals, and also the oil."

A subsidiary of Norwegian-based G.C. Rieber and Co., Carino held a celebration Wednesday night at the Fairmont hotel in St. John's to mark its 50th anniversary in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In that time, the company has practically seen it all.

Pelt prices ranged from over the moon to under the rug.

A food market developed slowly, along with the discovery of Omega- 3 in seal oil, and the benefits associated with it.

There was a spike in demand for seal penises to be made into aphrodisiacs.

Of course, there were down times, beginning with the near death of the industry in the 1980s.

Protest groups, virtually non-existent when Carino first set up shop, have come and gone - including one particularly heated animal- rights protest that showed up at the company's gate in South Dildo in the late 1990s.

Through it all, the company has managed to not only survive, but to grow and develop; in fact, it was part of the so-called industry renaissance that occurred in response to the 1980s whitecoat ban and subsequent downturn.

What was once a hunt undertaken by large vessels that focused on whitecoats became a diversified harvest carried out by smaller boats.

Today, seal pelt prices are at all-time highs. The industry was worth some $55 million to coastal communities in 2006, and provided about 6,000 seasonal jobs.

The company directly employs from 70 to 80 people at its plant during the season.

The secret to seal-processing success, Nygaard said, is simple.

"(It's) being able to change with the times," he said.

Nygaard thinks seal oil is likely to become the main focus of the industry as time goes by.

"We've seen very good results in that part of it," he said. "So far, it's only a drop in the bucket, but we think in the future oil will be a very big, important part of it."
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