The Seal Cove Smoked Herring Sheds on Grand Manan consists of some 54 wooden buildings, most built between 1870 and 1930. In the heyday of the smoked herring industry, these buildings were used to hang herring that were smoked as bloaters, cured or turned into fillets as a way to preserve them. These wooden buildings with red roofs located on a cove bounded by breakwaters on one side, and a creek on the other, made Seal Cove a designated National Historic Site in 1995.
Back in the 19th century, the smoked herring industry on Grand Manan was exporting to places as far as Europe and the Caribbean. And Seal Cove was in the thick of it. It’s also only one of two village enclaves left that still have a concentrated area of smokesheds.
The rise of better refrigeration and preservation methods pushed out the traditional method of smoking herring. Though some local residents still use the method in smaller sheds behind their homes.
The Seal Cove Smoked Herring Sheds were mostly run by families or companies. But with time, the labour went away and the industry moved to Europe and other parts of New Brunswick. A lot of the herring today are sold fresh.
Today, if you walk into Seal Cove as the fog settles in, the smoke sheds would look like abandoned houses with uniform colours of grey and red, giving off an eery vibe. But they’re not all inactive. They’re privately owned and many are left empty or serve other purposes.
Lobster fishermen use the sheds. They have them for warehouses and for working out of. And a number of summer residents have purchased them and made summer places and live in them as well. So, it’s still a very active worksite.
In Atlantic Canada many historic buildings that were used for fishing in the past end up getting torn down. It’s good that some of the properties in Seal Cove have being turned into other things.
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