Audit shows dire results for OCI in Marystown

James McLeod
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Fisheries Minister Darin King spoke with reporters Friday at Confederation Building on the report by Deloitte Inc. on the financial health of the Ocean Choice International fish plant in Marystown.Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

The Ocean Choice International fish plant in Marystown has lost $10 million in the past three years.

Friday afternoon, Fisheries Minister Darin King said it's up to the company and the union to figure out what to do about that.

"They owe it to workers to try to figure out what this means. If it means the plant is going to remain open, then we all need to know how that's going to look, and what it's going to mean for the viability of the company," King said.

"If the plant's going to close, then we need to know what that's going to look like."

The OCI plant has been closed since earlier this year, and CEO Martin Sullivan says they have no plans to re-open unless they find a way to make it profitable.

The company submitted to an external audit of its books to confirm that it has been losing money.

"The ideal way forward is to have a long-term sustainable business for flatfish, and that's going to involve changing some of the restrictions that we're currently under to allow export of more product in a product form that customers want,"" Sullivan said. "We want a solution this calander year, and the sooner we can get to a decision point the better."

Sullivan has been calling on the government to loosen restrictions on processing requirements as an avenue to making the fishery more viable.

On Friday, King plainly stated he's not interested in government subsidies to keep the plant open, but Alan Moulton, president of the FFAW union in Marystown said that might be a way forward.

"I do believe that government would be prepared to help, but based on the response I've seen from Mr. Sullivan today clearly indicates they're not interested in help," Moulton said. "I guess government help means help to stay here to continue to create employment here. The company's focus seems to be geared directly at shipping more fish out of the province unprocessed."

Moulton pointed out that the union has already made concessions to keep the plant alive.

"Having said that, we'll certainly try to search out and find some solutions that are acceptable, but the solution has got to be something that creates a benefit for all stakeholders, and all stakeholders means the workers," he said.

Both the opposition politicians called King's actions into question reacting to the audit results released Friday.

Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennet pointed out that OCI is shipping out undersized fish to China, and even as they were losing money, they were catching more fish.

"From 2009 to 2010 they increased their landings of yellowtal by 47 per cent. Why would you catch 47 per cent more of a species you're losing so much money on?" Bennett said. "They have to slack off on catching these undersized fish and let them grow a little more.

"The yellowtail flounder is a well sought after species all over north america, but it needs to grow, it needs to be full sized."

NDP critic Christopher Mitchelmore argued that King needs to be more directly involved to broker a solution and keep Marystown open.

"This is not a time for government to sit idle and send OCI and the union back to the table talking. They really need to take some action and be involved," he said. "We have to critically look at this; I mean, we can't just have government not taking any action." Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: FFAW union

Geographic location: Marystown, China

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Recent comments

  • Sam
    December 07, 2011 - 08:04

    "There is not a Newfoundlaner alive who can live on one dollar a day and that is what processors pay plant workers in China to process OUR fish." Exactly, that is why it is not efficient for you to process the fish. The same skills that the former OCI workers are available abroad for a cheaper costs. OCI doesn`t want to pay more. Us in Ontario don`t want to pay more. We just want the fish. Good decision for the business and for consumers.

  • Eli
    November 30, 2011 - 14:39

    Whether or not he realizes it the NDP's Mitchelmore should realize losing the election challenge to Clyde Jackman was the best thing that could happen to the NDP. Can you imagine THEIR predicament had they won the seat?

  • Duffy
    November 27, 2011 - 08:27

    The writing is on the wall = more taxpayers money so the workers can live in Mommys back yard and work across the street for a few weeks a year then collect more taxpayers money in EI or Welfare - same thing.

  • bear
    November 26, 2011 - 14:49

    Now the Union might leave OCI alone and let them run the business as they see fit.

  • Mike
    November 26, 2011 - 13:17

    Bennett said. "They have to slack off on catching these undersized fish and let them grow a little more." Mr Bennett does not understand that yellowtail flounder is a small fish by its nature. Leaving it uncaught longer will not change that fact. My cat will never grow to be the size of a tiger, no matter how long he lives.

  • Brett
    November 26, 2011 - 10:20

    Why should the government provide subsidies (take tax dollars that everyone has paid in to across the province) for the OCI fish plan tin Saint Mary's? What is the benefit for the province for this investment? How many jobs, and what is the cost should the plant close down and those people need to find other employment? Say over a 5-7 year period. Sorry to say I'm already of a mind that unemployment is already a subsidy for this sector.

  • Mark
    November 26, 2011 - 09:16

    There is not a Newfoundlaner alive who can live on one dollar a day and that is what processors pay plant workers in China to process OUR fish. As for Alan Moulton, he's git it all wring - he claims government is willing to help the plant financially but OCI isn't interested. That is totally false, Fisheries Minister Darin King has made it clear there is no taxpayer money available for OCI.