Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett
Liberal fisheries critic, MHA Jim Bennett, is still putting pressure on the provincial government to release details on the progression of a deal with Ocean Choice International (OCI) which granted the company an export exemption to ship out unprocessed fish.
Last December, a deal was reached in which OCI was granted government approval to ship out all of its redfish and 75 per cent of its yellowtail flounder unprocessed. The other 25 per cent would go to the plant in Fortune for processing, allowing that plant to stay open and sustaining 236 year-round jobs — between the town’s plant and on company vessels at sea — for at least five years.
Bennett wants an update on the status of the deal.
“I want to know how it’s progressing because I’m hearing on the Burin Peninsula that the work is not coming, the deal is not progressing as we were told it was supposed to,” he said Thursday.
At the time the deal was announced, Bennett said he decided to give the government the benefit of the doubt.
“Rather than criticize it immediately we thought we would give it a chance to work to see if they had done a deal that was viable.”
But now Bennett said he’s getting no information from the government on how the deal is progressing. He has been told that there are commercial interests at stake.
“But I dont get that because there are really no competitors involved in the yellowtail industry. OCI has got pretty much all of it,” Bennett said.
He said he thinks the deal has either gone off the rails or it’s not as sweet as the government first thought, hence the silence.
Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Derrick Dalley wasn’t available for an interview but did release a statement on the issue.
“The OCI plant in Fortune is currently undergoing renovations and is expected to be in production this fall. The agreement between the company and the provincial government requires that a minimum of 25 per cent of yellowtail landings will be processed at Fortune over the life of the agreement. In addition to this, the equivalent of 25 per cent of the yellowtail harvested by OCI prior to the Fortune plant reopening this fall must be processed at Fortune or another Newfoundland and Labrador facility within a three-year period.”
Bennett said he doesn’t like the idea of the processing being able to come later.
“That doesn’t work very well for us if we have people who are unemployed,” he said.