Re­ac­tion to fish­eries min­is­ter’s quota de­nial mixed

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY GE­ORGE MACVICAR

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.”

OP­POS­ING VOICES

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

Photo by Gary Heb­bard/the Telegram

FFAW pres­i­dent Earle Mccurdy

For­tune Mayor Charles Pen­well

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