by Stella Shepard
Jason Tompkins is the owner of One Tuna Inc., Canada’s only federally certified bluefin tuna processing facility, which opened in 2019.
The tuna processing facility is a short distance from North Lake, which is known as the bluefin tuna capital of the world. Reeling in the giant fish has been part of the community fabric for decades.
Jason describes himself as a results-oriented, decisive leader with proven success in establishing a lasting presence in new markets, identifying growth opportunities and initiating strong business alliances. “We just finished construction of the CFIA-approved tuna processing facility and I’m working to developing markets in China,” says Jason.
“It’s a huge accomplishment, as we were limited to the markets we could access before we were CFIA approved. The company hires about six seasonal workers and will be hiring more factory jobs as we expand into new markets.”
Jason is originally from New Brunswick. His mother is from Grand Manan, NB where he spent time jigging mackerel from the wharf. “Although I grew up around a wharf, I never planned a career in the fish business. I attended Saint Mary’s University with aspirations of becoming a commercial banker.
“After working for an American tuna buyer for 10 years, I decided it was time to start my own business. I moved my family to PEI and settled in Kingsboro in 2013 and started TNT Tuna, a bluefin tuna purchasing company. As with any startup, things were slow at first and it took time to build up my supply base and customer base.
“We managed to buy and sell 73 tuna in our first year in 2013. So far in 2019, as a result of global marketing and opening the tuna processing facility, we have bought over 450 tuna.
“Right now, we are shipping into Japan, Korea, United States and across Canada,” says Jason. “We are working to develop new markets in Korea and China.
“We’ve taken the jump from being a small business to serving a world marketplace. TNT Tuna is now one of the most active buyers of Bluefin tuna in Atlantic Canada. The company purchases directly from fishermen across the Atlantic provinces during the fishing season, and sends the tuna to active markets around the globe.
“If you are fishing tuna and are looking for a company to purchase your bluefin at a fair price, please contact us.”
Steps to opening the business
“I had experience from previous employment in this field,” says Jason. “It’s a very niche market, so my skill set becomes tremendously valuable.”
Jason took his business idea, his passion and skills sets to the Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC) housed out of the Rural Action Centre on Main Street, Montague.
He met with Martina MacDonald, Executive Director of CBDC East, and Helen Antle, Business Development Officer.
The resources at CBDC help budding entrepreneurs like Jason turn a skill and a passion into a viable business or expand an existing business. “Without Martina, Helen, and CBDC, building my new plant would have been impossible,” says Jason. “They took a chance on my vision when no one else would.
“Innovation PEI helped with a small grant for equipment, and the Federal Department of Fisheries also provided some funding for some of my equipment. My accountant at Bradley Handrahan helped me develop my business plan, which was the key to understanding what my goals were moving forward.
“My advice to anyone considering starting a business is contact the staff at CDBC. They are so helpful at getting all the right people at one table to assist you with starting a business.”
Jason is also the founder and co-owner of the Poké Shack, featuring locally sourced seafood, located on the Souris Boardwalk.
For more information about Rural Action Centre, visit www.ruralactioncentres.ca
For more information on the supports and services offered by Innovation PEI, call 902-368-6300 or visit www.innovationpei.com