No permanent exemption for Ocean Choice International

James McLeod
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Minister says government won't be 'threatened or bullied'

Fisheries Minister Darin King announced Friday morning that Ocean Choice International (OCI) has been denied a permanent redfish exemption. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Fisheries Minister Darin King delivered a very public dressing-down to Ocean Choice International (OCI), accusing them of resorting to threats and bullying when it comes to fish processing on the Burin Peninsula.

King also flatly turned down OCI's request for a permanent exemption allowing them to ship the majority of their yellowtail and redfish out of the province unprocessed.

Ocean Choice has shuttered its Marystown fish plant, and wants to move operations to a smaller fish plant in Fortune. Through November and December, the company said it needed permanent exemptions to the province's minimum processing requirements in order to make the plan happen.

Ocean Choice CEO Martin Sullivan said that if an exemption on redfish wasn't extended beyond Dec. 31, boats would end up being tied up.

Speaking to the media, King was clearly angry the company has acquired extra quota for redfish and is currently out fishing it, with the option to land the product in Nova Scotia.

"The company has said if we provide an exemption, they will land the fish in Newfoundland and Labrador, otherwise it will be landed in Nova Scotia," King said.

"We certainly don't appreciate these kinds of pressure tactics. This action is not helpful or respectful."

Part of the issue seems to be that OCI only recently gave the government financial information around their redfish operations. It has previously opened its books to a months-long audit of all the numbers in their yellowtail business in Marystown before they closed down the plant.

Blaine Sullivan, chief operating officer at OCI, said the company only got a formal request for the redfish numbers in late December.

The company said it would give the government access to their books, but the government should, in turn, extend the redfish exemption while the audit was going on.

"We're reluctant to go into an invasive process like this," Sullivan said.

"If we're going to start now, at this very late date, the same type of in-depth look at redfish, well then you should at least let us continue our business while we're being co-operative."

Sullivan's version of events is at odds with what King said happened. King said the government originally asked for the financial details back in late October or early November. In December, King said, Ocean Choice said it would only give over the redfish numbers in exchange for another temporary exemption.

"We're not prepared to be threatened or bullied in that way."

Once the government can get the information it needs, and get it independently verified, King said he'd make a decision within three weeks or so.

King said at its core he'll stick to the same two principles that he's talked about from Day 1: no government subsidies for the fishery, and making moves that maximize the benefit of the resource for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Twitter: TelegramJames


Organizations: OCI, Sullivan's

Geographic location: Marystown, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Randy
    January 07, 2012 - 14:39

    What a farse this is.King and Dunderdale won't grant their PC Sullivan buddies a permanent exemption ,just an exemption for 16 years. We may all have been wiped out by a nuclear war by then--Such a joke this government is

  • Behind The Plow
    January 07, 2012 - 10:22

    The View From Here........Congratulations to the NfLD Minister.... Stick to It. The comments in this article only in part tell the story in dealing with OCI 1. King said at its core he'll stick to the same two principles that he's talked about from Day 1: no government subsidies for the fishery, and making moves that maximize the benefit of the resource for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The Issues all come back to ensuring that taxpayers are protected and that the " common property of fish species " benefit all those in NFLD and Labrador....not just a privately held company . The tactics used by the COO of OCI are known as well around the Maritimes where OCI have either shut down or in a Law Suite mode.......they know very lttle regarding " Interpersonal Skills " and treating others with respect and honor..........partly is because of their training by their former employers in NFLD and how that company tried to run " Rough Shod " over all the competition for that " Almighty Dollar " at others expense! They were not willing to fully disclose their financials when asked to do so and " Bullying tactics is exaclty the correct word used to describe the Coo of OCI and if you follow his press releases they " never answer the question that is asked " , it is time for what is remaining of this fishery to be Operated properly and Managed properly............OCI has not the track record they said they would do..Just look around and go visit other operations.........What about their offshore quotas and who is the backer of these and at the end of the day who really owns the Quotas , Offshore and in Europe perhaps?...............This is NFLD resource property first and not a given for a few to recklessly divide the spoils amongst themselves and throw a pittance a their employees........Enough is Enough. How much of their original Agreements with NFLd regarding the FPI Assets, Sales and Purchase Agreement did they really complete . .OCI 's record speaks for it self. The employees have given concessions as well as Union Leaders and OCI never gives any early notice of pending action untill almost always which has been, just prior to a closure of an operation or shutdown and the same with scheduled meetings until its over...............It is no way to do business...........Good employees and some poor Senior Management in OCI. Dealing with employees and issues up front prior to what is going to happen is ( which is considered normal in GMP's ) is not known or practiced by the current Owners/ Operators who are the regulars at OCI press releases......Enough is Enough.

  • Brett
    January 07, 2012 - 09:09

    You would think that OCI would have been trying to hand over its financial information to the Prov. Gov't asap to get an extension, instead of sitting on it for a few months. Do you think they'd really expect to be given a permanent exemption without having a peek at the figures behind their claims? or even an extension? If I were the province I'd double check the figures against HST remittance + any other piece of information I'd received from previous years to make sure there'd been no shenanigans over the past few months. Smells fishy.