Ocean Choice International (OCI) was in full damage-control mode Monday. After getting a blast of harsh words from Fisheries Minister Darin King at a news conference Friday, OCI officials held its own news conference.
BY JAMES McLEOD
OCI CEO Martin Sullivan said Monday “We are very disappointed that government has characterized us as unco-operative with regards to the supply of information, as this is simply not true.”
OCI has been struggling to make its redfish and yellowtail flounder operations on the Burin Peninsula viable. It has announced the closure of the Marystown fish plant.
It is trying to get the province to grant an exemption allowing it to ship out most of its yellowtail and redfish quotas un-processed, in exchange for providing full-time, year-round processing jobs at its smaller plant in Fortune.
Friday, Mr. King accused the company of not being forthcoming in providing necessary financial details on its redfish operations; he also accused the company of bullying tactics.
Mr. Sullivan laid out, at length, the timeline of when the government had asked for financial information, and what the company had provided. He said when they had been asked verbally for numbers, they had responded verbally.
They did not turn over their full financial documents until they received a formal, written request.
In response, Mr. King issued a statement saying he wouldn’t get drawn into a debate on the details.
“We see no benefit in engaging in a ‘he said, he said’ debate. The comments from Friday stand.
“The bottom line is we’ve been seeking the data for months. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”
Martin Sullivan’s brother, Blaine was also on hand Monday, speaking about damage Mr. King’s comments have caused to their business.
Blaine said they’ve been in ‘damage control’ mode with customers who are concerned about the situation.
“Ocean Choice International is a well-respected company in the seafood industry. We have worked very hard through our marketing efforts to develop a good name with our customers in some 35 countries. We value these relationships dearly.
“The reputation we have built is more important than an exemption.”
Fisheries union president Earle McCurdy was quick to dismiss the OCI news conference.
“Our concern is really not about who said what on what day or who asked for what. It’s really, what are the employment benefits and the economic benefits we’re going to get in this province.”
Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett was at the OCI news conference, and afterwards argued the government should try to cut them out of the process altogether.
Mr. Bennett said he believes there are legal grounds for revoking the company’s fishing quotas, and seizing the Marystown plant.
At the same, he said the current situation really isn’t the company’s fault.
“The company is not the villain here. You can’t blame a company for taking as many liberties as the government will let them take.
“There’s no way that this company should have been permitted to have these many indulgences”
St. John’s Telegram