Province, OCI reach deal on yellowtail

Published on December 22, 2012

With Fortune Deputy Mayor James Dunne in the foreground, Ocean Choice International workers listened to Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley's announcement from the Confederation Building Friday evening that paved the way to reopen the town's fish plant. Paul Herridge Photo

Paul Herridge Photo

The provincial government announced an agreement with Ocean Choice International Ltd. (OCI) Friday that will keep the company’s fish plant in Fortune open.

The announcement means a total of 236 year-round jobs, between the town’s plant and on company vessels at sea, for at least five years.

OCI will be allowed to ship up to 75 per cent of its yellowtail flounder quota overseas for processing, along with 100 per cent of its redfish quota.

Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley told reporters it’s not economical to process redfish in this province. In return, OCI has agreed to invest $1 million for capital improvements at the Fortune plant within the next year, grant access to its unused yellowtail quota to other harvesters and processors in the province, use local or Canadian fishing crews before hiring foreign workers and help displaced workers at its shuttered plants in Marystown and Port Union.

Mr. Dalley said the province faced three choices: to leave fish in the water, grant OCI the long-term exemption to process yellowtail locally it had asked for or reach the announced compromise.

“I truly believe that this partnership will stand the test of time. These agreements will contribute to the long-term viability and stability of OCI’s groundfish operations.”

Reporters asked Dalley if the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union approved of the agreement, as no one from the union was at Friday evening’s announcement and the union had been against sending more yellowtail overseas for processing.

Mr. Dalley said he spoke to the union earlier in the day, but said he wouldn’t speak for it. The minister did say the agreement does address a number of the FFAW’s concerns.

About 50 people listened to the minister’s announcement at the fire hall in Fortune.

Afterwards, Karen Caines, the president of the FFAW at the plant, was teary eyed as she spoke to The Southern Gazette.

“For Fortune, it’s a wonderful opportunity. We never really expected this to happen. We fought hard. Nobody can’t say we didn’t fight, and we deserve this.”

Fortune Deputy Mayor James Dunne also thanked the minister by teleconference, calling it the best Christmas gift the town could have hoped for.