The Seal Cove Smoked Herring Sheds, located on Grand Manan, comprise 54 wooden structures, most of which were constructed between 1870 and 1930. During the smoked herring industry’s prime, these buildings were utilized for hanging herring to be smoked as bloaters, cured, or transformed into fillets for preservation. Situated on a cove bordered by breakwaters on one side and a creek on the other, these red-roofed wooden buildings led to Seal Cove being designated a National Historic Site in 1995.
In the 19th century, the smoked herring industry on Grand Manan exported to destinations as far away as Europe and the Caribbean, with Seal Cove playing a central role. It remains one of only two village enclaves with a concentrated area of smokesheds still standing.
Advancements in refrigeration and preservation techniques eventually replaced traditional herring smoking methods. However, some local residents continue to practice this technique in smaller sheds behind their homes.
Families or companies once operated the Seal Cove Smoked Herring Sheds, but as labor dwindled and the industry shifted to Europe and other parts of New Brunswick, most herring are now sold fresh.
Today, as fog envelops Seal Cove, the smoke sheds resemble abandoned houses, uniformly colored grey and red, exuding a haunting atmosphere. Despite this, not all sheds are inactive. Many are privately owned, with some left vacant or repurposed.
Lobster fishermen use the sheds as warehouses and workspaces. Additionally, several summer residents have purchased and converted them into seasonal dwellings. As a result, Seal Cove remains an active worksite.
It is fortunate that some of Seal Cove’s properties have been repurposed, as many historic fishing buildings in Atlantic Canada are often demolished.
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