Processors denounce decision

Terry Roberts
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Say allowing export of unprocessed turbot will hurt industry's reputation

A decision by the provincial government to allow a Northern Peninsula company to ship unprocessed turbot out of the province will hurt the industry's reputation.

That's the view of George Joyce, executive director of the Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc. (SPONL).

George Joyce

A decision by the provincial government to allow a Northern Peninsula company to ship unprocessed turbot out of the province will hurt the industry's reputation.

That's the view of George Joyce, executive director of the Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc. (SPONL).

"Why the government would allow or provide an exemption to ship out a product of inferior quality, I do not know," Joyce said Monday.

But the owner of 3Ts Ltd., of Woody Point said Joyce has it all wrong.

By supplying strong markets for "whole-round" turbot in Asia, Todd Young said he will be able to improve quality, enhance his return on the product, and eventually pay higher prices to harvesters.

"It doesn't sound right for our association to come out against that. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. I'm the only one losing money," Young said.

3Ts has been granted an exemption to the province's minimum processing requirements, allowing it to export up to 200,000 pounds of turbot (Greenland halibut) less than 1,000 grams in whole form.

Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman said it's only a pilot project to the end of June to verify whether there is a market.

"3Ts indicate they have a market and they want to attempt to see how it works. We'll allow them to gather some information, and we'll assess it later," Jackman said Monday.

Regulations stipulate seafood must be processed before it is exported. There are exceptions to this, with lobster being the most noteworthy.

Earlier this year, the provincial government gave Ocean Choice International a one-year exemption which will allow it to export yellowtail flounder under 450 grams to China, where it can be processed at a much lower cost.

"This is not a full endorsement," Jackman said of the turbot exemption.

Joyce said allowing the fish to be exported unprocessed is "antiquated."

"Why would government allow harvesters and a single producer to side-step a quality requirement and facilitate the export of gill netted- gut-in turbot?" he asked.

Joyce said the decision contradicts the message being promoted in recent months by Jackman.

"All we hear from the minister is marketing," Joyce said.

SPONL represents 20 processing facilities in the province, including 3Ts. Joyce said he is not attacking 3Ts, but the decision.

When asked if he agreed that the decision will hurt the industry's reputation, Jackman replied: "I don't think so."

Young said the quality argument used by SPONL is misleading, and believes the threat of competition is the real reason behind its opposition.

"They're scared ... fishermen may want to sell me some fish whole-round as opposed to gutting at sea," Young said.

By selling their catch whole-round, Young said harvesters will not be required to remove the gut and head at sea. He said this will mean less work, and the extra weight will mean higher earnings for harvesters.

"We can pay fishermen more if we can get this to work," Young said.

3Ts is currently paying $1.10 per pound for gutted turbot, and $1 for whole-round.

Young noted that Asian restaurants prefer the whole fish.

"They want to cook it just like it swims," he said, adding that there are also markets in the U.S.

He believes quality will be comparable to seafood products that are frozen at sea by large trawlers.

Young got approval for the exemption on June 3, but the Newfoundland turbot fishery closed the next day. He's now hoping to buy from Quebec harvesters.

He doesn't expect to come anywhere near the 200,000 pound limit, but is hoping the exemption can be extended in future years.

3Ts employs between 30 to 40 people from June to December.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: SPONL, Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Northern Peninsula, Woody Point, Asia China U.S. Newfoundland Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Edward
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I confess that I don't know much about this fishery, but doesn't it seem counterproductive to be catching fish that weigh less than two pounds when cleaned and gutted.
    This is conservation?

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    The industry can't work as is.

    Govt says how much you can catch, how much you can sell it for and to whom you can sell it too. Doesn't seem to jive with free enterprise. But it keeps all the fishermen in stamps and all the processors making money regardless of their ability to run competitive businesses.

  • Edward
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    I confess that I don't know much about this fishery, but doesn't it seem counterproductive to be catching fish that weigh less than two pounds when cleaned and gutted.
    This is conservation?

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    The industry can't work as is.

    Govt says how much you can catch, how much you can sell it for and to whom you can sell it too. Doesn't seem to jive with free enterprise. But it keeps all the fishermen in stamps and all the processors making money regardless of their ability to run competitive businesses.