Necessary renovations inside the building have been completed and the freezer is full in anticipation of the coming lobster season. Come spring, weather permitting, the O’Haras will do some paving and landscaping and pour concrete landing pads for trucks outside.

O’Hara Corporation purchases frozen bait from all over the world, including frozen red fish racks, carp and rock fish from the west coast, Orange roughy and alfonsino from New Zealand and other products from Iceland. With the purchase of the new facility, O’Hara Corporation looks to increase their sales of the frozen fish by 30 to 40 percent.

According to Frank O’Hara, Jr., “The additional frozen product will not completely fill the lack of fresh herring available from the Gulf of Maine, but should help when the peak lobster season occurs in the summer and fall.”

David Cousens, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, looks on O’Hara’s expansion as a good thing. “We’re in a bait crisis in the lobster industry,” he said. “We’re one disaster away from not being able to haul. Obviously if we can have a freezer in the area it’s a positive thing.” According to Cousens, the herring fishery has gone from a 60 metric-ton limit to a 36 metric-ton limit. “We use 100,000 metric tons a year. All the fish that gets caught gets used, so no one’s going to be put out of business.”

Cousens also pointed to O’Hara’s ability to offer a wider variety of bait fish. “The dynamics of the fishery have changed,” he said. “Other baits are taking the place of herring. [O’Hara’s frozen] supply can buffer that shortage [of herring.] It’s not going to be cheap,” Cousens conceded, “but it’s better than no bait.”

O’Hara’s new facility is situated next to the Maine Eastern Railroad, which will help keep costs down. “We will try to keep the prices as reasonable as possible,” O’Hara said, “however with the demand of bait increasing and the supply coming from 3,500 miles away, in some instances even further such as Iceland and New Zealand, the prices will be higher from the increase of fuel for transportation.

According to O’Hara, the corporation also operates two seine/trawl boats that fish predominantly out of Rockland during the summer and fall, and out of Gloucester and New Bedford, Mass. during the winter. These boats provide fresh refrigerated herring to the plant in Rockland, where they are salted and loaded into barrels or Xactic tanks for storage. The corporation keeps an 80,000 cubic foot cooler at the north end of Rockland that is maintained at 32 degrees for the best quality bait.

“The O’Hara Corporation has always been in the market for additional products from any of the herring fleet throughout the fishing season,” said O’Hara.

In addition to storing frozen bait and salt, O’Hara Corp. will use their new building for indoor boat and recreational vehicle storage, wood pellet storage and retail/business offices.

Kris Osgood is a freelance writer living on Vinalhaven.