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Clare businessman heading to Business Hall of Fame

Bernardin Comeau, co-founder and former chief executive officer of Comeau’s Sea Foods Ltd., is to be inducted into the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame. The induction recognizes his dedication to the economic and cultural prosperity of Nova Scotia’s French Shore region.

The Saulnierville native is the second of three laureates to be announced to the hall of fame, which is organized by Junior Achievement. This year’s induction ceremony is scheduled for June 12 in the World and Trade Convention Centre in Halifax.

A statement today from Junior Achievement said Comeau’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident at an early age. After leaving school to help his father, he started his own lobster fishing operation, which he continued until 1962.

During the summer months when the lobster fishery was closed, he knew that herring could be caught for both processing and as lobster bait for the following season.

That’s how Comeau’s Sea Foods Limited began in 1946. Along with his brother, Clarence who later left the company to start a retail store, Comeau began the company with the goal of maximizing fishing opportunities and maintaining local employment throughout the year, principally involved in herring and offshore scallop operations.

Over time, the Comeaus expanded their company to meet growing consumer demand. In 1976, they acquired marinated herring producer, Frankland Canning Company Ltd., then started the Comeau and Saulnier fish processing division in 1978. Comeau Marine Railway, incorporated in 1981, provides year-round repair and maintenance for their fleet.

In 1983, Comeau’s acquired Skipper Fisheries Ltd., followed by Sea Life Fisheries in 1998, further increasing harvesting and production capacity.

It was in 1989 that Comeau and his son demonstrated how their dedication to innovation would ensure the success of their business. That was the year the Comeaus launched Nova West Laboratory, allowing them to ensure they are exceeding federal health and safety requirements, while offering consumers high-quality seafood products. It was also the year they established Comeau Foods Division.

The new division gave them the opportunity to diversify their product offering by producing value-added foods such as fish and seafood chowders, breaded scallops, fillets, mussels, scallop burgers, seafood spreads, salads and fish steaks. At a time when others in the fishing industry required government assistance to survive, Comeau’s Sea Foods’ innovation allowed them to forego government bailouts and laid the groundwork for a successful future.

Today, Comeau’s Sea Foods is run by Bernardin’s son Marcel and operates five seafood processing plants in Clare and Punico, making it the largest employer in the area. It is one of Nova Scotia’s largest seafood producers with over 350 full time employees.

Comeau has also been a major benefactor to recipients such as Université Sainte-Anne, Yarmouth Regional Hospital, IWK Health Centre, Université de Moncton and numerous youth organizations.

He continues to act as a champion for those of Acadian heritage, ensuring their culture and way of live is preserved for following generations. The Bernardin J. Comeau Centre at Université Sainte-Anne and his support of Le Festival de Clare and Les Jeux d’Acadie are just some examples of his dedication to the people he proudly calls his own and one of the reasons he was named to the Order of Canada in 1987.

Since 1993, 52 individuals have been inducted into the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame. The event has raised more than $1.2 million, which has gone directly to support program delivery by Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia.

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