Reaction to fisheries minister’s quota denial mixed
That still is an issue for FFAW Marystown unit chair Mr. Moulton, who has advocated the provincial government not allow any exemptions for OCI.
He said the minister realized the company has been “less than upfront” in providing the government with the necessary information it requested on redfish operations. Mr. King noted this still required “an independent validation.”
As well, Mr. Moulton pointed to OCI’S decision to purchase redfish quotas from Nova Scotia license holders.
“Why is the company doing this if there’s no value in redfish?”
He suggested there is enough yellowtail flounder (30 million pounds) and redfish (10 million pounds) quota to offer a viable solution for the company’s Burin Peninsula operations.
He noted the Marystown plant – the most modern equipped of all plants for flatfish in this province – could operate 35 weeks a year with this available quota, while allowing the Fortune plant to operate with 110 workers processing seven million of the 10-12 million remaining pounds.
In the meantime, OCI could still ship away half of its fish quotas in a ‘whole round’ stage.
The company claims its market for redfish and yellowtail in Asia demands an unprocessed product – a market venture with which it can make money.
Mr. Moulton expressed a concern Marystown had been left out of the minister’s announcement Friday.
He also cited the recovery of the American Place flatfish quota as “a very successful story on the Burin Peninsula,” allowing the Marystown plant to operate successfully in recent years.
Both Liberal and NDP fisheries critics, along with federal NDP MP Ryan Cleary, all liked what they heard from Mr. King Friday.
Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett suggested “The runaway train has been stopped. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going in the right place, or going anywhere just yet.
“I think the best part about that is it shows the willingness of the government, and in truth, this minister to take a stand on this issue.”
NDP critic Christopher Mitchelmore said if Ocean Choice doesn’t have the people’s best interests at heart, then the government needs to think about stepping in, in a forceful way.
“I mean, if they’re not willing to work with the people, you’ve seen what happened in Newfoundland and Labrador before. Look at what the government has done with Abitibi Bowater.”
Ocean Choice chief operating officer Blaine Sullivan was one of the few people who didn’t appreciate Mr. King’s words.
He was disappointed the permanent exemption wasn’t given, and not happy Mr. King called the company’s credibility into question.
The only other voice speaking against the announcement was Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell, who suggested Mr. King’s announcement had continued his community’s wait.
“Hopefully, we’ll be seeing 110 full time, year round jobs but until a decision is made and OCI says it’s actually going to be able to do it then we’re still in limbo wondering.”
Mr. Penwell felt the fisheries minister announcement simply delays this outcome.
“We were a bit disappointed to hear the minister say they didn’t have all the information because in council’s discussions with him in mid-december, he clearly indicated to us the department was going to take its time and do it’s own research.
“We were hoping by this time we would have an announcement they were going to be up and running.”
He indicated it looks like a mini- mum of another three weeks before they can possibly hope to move forward.
Mr. Penwell recognized the Ocean Choice plan to close the Marystown plant and reopen the plant in his town has essentially pitted one community against the other.
“The workers in Fortune understand the situation of the workers in Marystown simply because FPI, in its last days, said it wasn’t operating Fortune anymore. The people in Fortune know what that sounds like and know what it feels like.”
He said since then workers had to find work elsewhere, such as in P.E.I. and New Brunswick, to qualify for Employment Insurance to get them and their families through the year.
“There’s certainly a lot of sympathy for Marystown but having said that it’s sort of the same thing that’s been going on since the moratorium in ‘92, which began with Grand Bank, Burin and Trepassey (plant closures).”
Mr. Penwell pointed to a missed opportunity when Cooke Aquaculture was considering the Fortune plant for its base of operations and then went to Harbour Breton, “which is doing really well.”
He acknowledged there are no immediate plans he knows that OCI will replace Fortune’s damaged cold storage facility. He said the company is limiting its initial investment there by utilizing its cold storage unit in Bay Roberts, and shipping out the majority of the yellowtail quota whole or head and gutted.
“There would be a lot higher transportation cost if it were all landed here and then shipped into the Harbour Grace-bay Roberts area or St. John’s for transportation to Europe or Asia. The company indicated it would be a lot cheaper to ship the 30 per cent that we’re going to process through Fortune by truck.
“So basically it would be a truck coming and then a truck going of processed food.”
FFAW Marystown unit chairman Allan Moulton
FFAW president Earle Mccurdy
Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell