Update: Critics of Ocean Choice plant closures vow not to give up

Daniel MacEachern
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Ocean Choice International’s closure of two troubled plants has put more than 400 employees out of work, but critics of the decision are vowing not to give up.

Sam Synyard, the mayor of Marystown — which saw 240 jobs disappear with the announcement today by Martin Sullivan and Blaine Sullivan of Ocean Choice — said the town will try to meet with the company.

“Our hope is that we can somehow convince Ocean Choice to reverse their decision, or we can somehow find some other operator to operate that fish plant and make it viable,” he said. “It’s really hard to give up on an operation that’s been here since 1967.”

The announcement of the closure comes a week after an external audit found the Marystown plant has lost $10 million over the last three years, blamed largely on fluctuating foreign exchange rates and rising fuel costs, as well as increased expenses and overhead. Blaine Sullivan, Ocean Choice’s chief operating officer, said the company has invested millions trying to make the plant viable. “But there comes a time when we must be satisfied that we have exhausted all possibilities. And, frankly, we have,” he said.

The Port Union plant was actually closed by hurricane Igor in 2010, and hasn’t been opened since, with onerous repair costs cited. But Sullivan said declining shrimp quotas — from 174 million pounds in 2008 to 107 million pounds in 2011 — were a factor in shuttering the plant for good, putting 170 people out of work. “That’s a 40 per cent reduction,” he said. “These reductions would mean far too few weeks of work at Port Union to make the operation viable.”

Chief executive officer Martin Sullivan blamed an over-regulated provincial industry.

“We have come to the conclusion that sometimes things that are broken cannot be fixed, especially when all the critical factors are beyond our own control,” said Martin Sullivan, reading from a prepared statement. “The fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador needs to change. It has been crying out for rationalization for years. Unfortunately we — the collective we, government, union and industry — have not been able to agree on the right path forward.”

Despite the Deloitte report on the Marystown plant and the 15 months of inactivity in Port Union, today’s announcement was still a shock to the industry.

Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ union that represents plant workers, said making the fishery more profitable can’t come on the backs of plant workers through process exemptions.

“It’s devastating news for 400 Newfoundland families but also for the communities — not only Marystown and Port Union but in both cases a number of surrounding communities as well,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s not good enough to say that the best that the company can do, with privileged access to our natural resources, is to ship off all the jobs to another country, and we expect the provincial government to tell them there will be no exemptions. We expect the government to step up and play a role here. We’ve asked for a meeting with the (Fisheries) minister and also we’ll be looking for a meeting with the premier. She made a commitment to that effect during the election campaign to meet with us on the Marystown situation.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com, Twitter: TelegramDaniel


Ocean Choice International president and CEO Martin Sullivan and Chief Operation Officer Blaine Sullivan announced today the permanent closures of OCI plants in Marystown and Port Union.

About 170 workers at the Port Union facility and about 240 in Marystown expected to be affected.



Geographic location: Marystown, Port Union, Port Union.More

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Recent comments

  • I Blame Ottawa
    December 05, 2011 - 13:01

    Ottawa has 100 per cent of the FISH QUOTA in it hands and it has dispensed and still dispenses that great enabler to Global Free Trade in a way that it impacts vibrantly the economies of Central Canada. Why was Loyola Sullivan appointed by Ottawa in a newly coined political patronage position of Fisheries' Ambassador? I would love to know the reason for that. It is an enigma to most of us.

  • willy
    December 03, 2011 - 06:02

    Why don't the Union and plant workers take over the plant themselves, seem like they have all the answers.

  • Does OCI have an understanding with the Federal Government
    December 02, 2011 - 23:01

    A QUESTION FOR OCEAN CHOICE INTERNATIONAL! Could somebody from Ocean Choice International (OCI) please explain to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians if their company has an understanding with the Federal Government, that allows whole fish, which is caught by OCI and destined to be processed in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to be rerouted in the whole state to someplace else in the World to be processed , to satisfy Canadian Trade Deficits that are experienced from time to time under the Global Free Trade Umbrella?

  • Randy
    December 02, 2011 - 20:26

    What could you expect from Loyola Sullivan and his clan---Just remenber this OCI--any crab or fish product has to pass through port union-catalina..Good luck to ya

  • Duffy
    December 02, 2011 - 20:09

    Shame! What about all the people that live in Momma's back yard and work across the street a few weeks every year and then collect Welfare (woops sorry EI) - what will they do ?

  • tom hodder
    December 02, 2011 - 19:48

    Just a little taste of what martin sullivans' restructured fishery would look like....give me a break! TOM

  • roy
    December 02, 2011 - 18:07

    I as well as all newfoundlanders feel bad about the closing of the fishplant, no buisness can stay open if they are losing money. The paper industry couldn't the mining industry couldn't. I saw McCurdy on TV off course he blames the govt. Synard blames the govt. It's always the governments fault, Ottawas for mismanaging the fish, nothing about the local fishermen who will take anykind of fish as long as there is one left. Remember when fish was dumped when the Japanes wanted caplin, no our fishermen have caught just about every caplin they can catch isn't this food for the cod, how about shrimp isn't this cod food. How about crab, lets sit back and take some of the blame. Fishermen come together and manage your resources stop blaming everyone. Stop blaming the govt Kick McCurdy out of the union.

  • Sam
    December 02, 2011 - 17:03

    The Company was willing to loose over $2 million a year for the next 3 years to keep these workers employed until they could retire, and they turned the offer down by 98%. What did they expect? The Company owes its other hundreds of employees its best efforts to be profitable to protect their jobs. It kills me when I hear that the Company is doing this just for bigger profits...THEY WERE LOOSING MONEY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! .What Company can explain that to their bank and investors and hope to stay in business?

  • Sam
    December 02, 2011 - 17:00

    The Company was willing to loose over $2 million a year for the next 3 years to keep these workers employed until they could retire, and they turned the offer down by 98%. What did they expect? The Company owes its other hundreds of employees its best efforts to be profitable to protect their jobs. It kills me when I hear that the Company is doing this just for bigger profits...THEY WERE LOOSING MONEY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! .What Company can explain that to their bank and investors and hope to stay in business?

  • martin
    December 02, 2011 - 15:04

    a business closed because it is losing money which to me sounds about fair. to moulton /synyard and anyone else who think they can make it work Iam sure O/Cwould let you have it to prove your point. without government handouts that is.

  • dickie
    December 02, 2011 - 15:03

    here we go again wht is the govt now going to do for us. If all the critics owned the company what would they do, keep plant open even if losing money. I don't think so . As for Mr. Moulton it must be nice to get on the airways stating it was the complanies fault while you sit back and get have your nice little job with the FFAW.

  • Don
    December 02, 2011 - 15:02

    Did the plant workers expect the company to keep losing money until it went broke ????? If they had agreed to the companies request , not all 400 would still be working but the plant would remain open with some of them working. It's about time someone said no to the plant workers in this province. They got a bad case of the gimmies.

  • Seamus Connors
    December 02, 2011 - 14:41

    That's it Tony, blame it on the Avalon getting a Nickel plant as they are obviously linked. Sorry to see this happen but it is clearly a business decision. You can't expect a business to run at a loss for the sake of the community. It's time for all the communities outside of the Avalon to do something yourselves to make where you live viable instead of sitting around crying about how the Gevernment is helping you and the business world isn't helping you. I got news for you, the Gevernment is going to help you unless you can provide them with 2 thing. 1. Money. 2. Votes. Right now you don't really have either. The business world isn't going to help you unless they get the better deal in the end. How about showing some pride in your communities and start doing things to right the ship itself.

  • MBC
    December 02, 2011 - 14:28

    The workers can thank the union for this plant closure; now move to Fort Mac ! Has the premier finished her XMAS shopping, vacation and gym workouts yet? What is she going to do now?

  • Max Edwards
    December 02, 2011 - 13:48

    A very sad day. The beginning of the end started when the Nfld government promised the dismantling of FPI and purchase by OCI would not have any adverse affects on the Port Union plant. Only dollars mattered from that day onward and false promises were scatted about the media like flies hovering over newly spread salt cod. Hurricane IGOR provided a convenient excuse to do the dirty deed. Shame on the money mongers and phoney politicians of which Nfld has more than it's fair share. .

  • Sickening and corrupt Reform for the Fishery of Newfoundland and Labrador
    December 02, 2011 - 12:50

    I wonder was the newly coined Federal Fisheries Ambassador patronage appointment the, incubator or place of birth, where this corrupt reform of the fishery for these two Newfoundland and Labrador communities got to breathe life. This is an affront to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and is a indirect slap in the face to all of us, since it hurts us all economically and culturally, offered up by Ottawa and our toe the line Newfoundland and Labrador Conservative Government . Ottawa finally has control of the whole fishery, lock stock and barrel, that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador brought into Canada in 1949. We must stand firm and do something about these corrupt reforms announced today. Control over the fishery must come back to Newfoundland and Labrador in its entirety!

  • Maurice Rogers
    December 02, 2011 - 12:48

    That's normal in a resource based industry, today tens of people can do what once took hundreds to do.

  • Tony Young
    December 02, 2011 - 12:12

    Is this announcement in anyway tied into the opening of the new Nickle plant on the Avalon? Sounds like take from Peter to feed Paul.

    • The Bayman
      December 02, 2011 - 13:31

      Now you know why this wasn't dealt with before the election. I wonder what the Queen Mother of Newfoundland will have to say. Ho wait, I'll tell you, "I care deeply for Rural Newfoundland....my Father was a fisher....we will develop a recovery plan...please save us the same old same old. In 10 - 15 years anybody that sticks around will be retired, the rest of the young ones will all be gone. Nothing left to do then only wait for the rest to die.

    • expat
      December 02, 2011 - 13:34

      Well done greedy unions, you have done it again, Merry Christmas

  • lester hynes
    December 02, 2011 - 11:49

    bought time, another win for big union, just like Grand-falls windsor and stephenville.......the left is extremely selfish, only worse than the right wingers who at least care to admit it.

  • Eli
    December 02, 2011 - 11:48

    Place the blame where it belongs! Sinyard's administration and Moulton's union are directly responsible for this. Both were too cocky and inflexible. The winner is the NDP who lost the election challenge. The loser would normallay be MHA Darin King but he's just on leave from his teacher position and couldn't give a hoot anyway.

  • Derrick
    December 02, 2011 - 11:42

    Thank you Mr. King and Mr. Jackman....you are both legends....in your own minds! What would we do without you?