Sea Watch International celebrated its 40th anniversary on March 27. The company started with a cannery operation in Milford, Delaware, buying clams from independent clammers and shucking them at a small shucking house in Oyster, Virginia. In 1980, it added a fry line to make breaded clam strips for a growing market dominated by the familiar orange roof of Howard Johnson’s.
Subsequent acquisitions in resulting years have brought more value-added seafood products to the company’s portfolio, such as stuffed clams, breaded soft shell clams, crab cakes and a variety of other breaded seafood products. Today, Sea Watch offers an extensive line of frozen and canned clam products, which include clam chowder, clam strips, stuffed clams, clam sauces, chopped clams, clam juice and clam concentrates.
In 1986, the company was sold and then changed hands 18 months later when Nicheri of Tokyo acquired Sea Watch from Rymer Meats.
Nicheri operated the company for one decade, and by 1994, Sea Watch had become the largest clam processor in the world when it completed construction of a new shucking facility in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
In 1999, Bob Brennan, the CFO of Sea Watch, brought together a deal with Truex Enterprises Inc. to acquire the company from Nicheri. To this day, the ownership remains the same: Barney Truex, Martin Truex Sr., Jim Meyers and Bob Brennan.
The union between Sea Watch and Truex Enterprises brought together the largest harvest capacity and the largest processor of Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs. This synergy had existed for many years prior, says Sea Watch, as Truex Enterprises supplied the majority of its live shell stock.
Over the past 19 years, Sea Watch has grown fivefold through acquisitions and product line expansion. Its market presence has been primarily as a foodservice and industrial supplier of clams and value-added seafood and clam products. It also has had a small retail presence over the years with its breaded clam strips.
In 2016, Sea Watch completed an investment and partnership transaction with Look’s Gourmet Food Company Inc., dba Bar Harbor Foods, based in Whiting, Maine. Bar Harbor has a national presence in shelf-stable seafood products, including chowders, clams, soups and bisques.
Sea Watch International and Bar Harbor say they have long been advocates of sustainable harvest and the protection of the oceans. The Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries have been under federal management since 1977 under the authorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Magnuson-Stevens Act is considered the gold standard worldwide for fisheries management supported by the certification as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Counsel in 2016. All Sea Watch and Bar Harbor plants carry the MSC Chain of Custody Certification.
Sea Watch owners operate technologically advanced vessels to harvest clams which are processed in three processing plants operating under approved FDA and HACCP plans. The processing plants are located in Maryland, Delaware and Massachusetts.