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Local, family-owned fishing companies correct misinformation, stand up for employees and calls for respect and collaboration in the NL fishery

August 21, 2019

(August 19, 2019 – St. John’s, NL) – Over the last week, and throughout the last several years, there have been many examples of misinformation from the FFAW management, frequently targeting two local, family-owned companies that collectively employ almost 2,000 people in over 300 communities, and buy raw material from thousands of fishers all over Newfoundland and Labrador; Ocean Choice International and Icewater Seafoods.

“It’s disheartening to see our employees and our company targeted with so many falsehoods,” stated Martin Sullivan, CEO of Ocean Choice. “Our 1,700 employees work hard at sea and on land, many of them year-round, to build a sustainable and successful fishery for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. They deserve better, and as a company, we will stand up for them.” Both Ocean Choice and Icewater Seafoods employees, who are FFAW members, have been subject to this misinformation from FFAW management:

  1. FFAW management has made statements that Ocean Choice employees at the Bonavista plant have been inquiring about income improvement plans at the plant and that the employees working in the Triton plant average work was 5 hours from Sunday to Tuesday of last week.
    This is a distortion of the facts. Ocean Choice has worked in partnership with approximately 1,900 local, hardworking harvesters to purchase seafood for processing at its 5 plants. As a result of these partnerships, all full-time employees working at each of the 5 plants have exceeded the qualification requirements for their hours of work. As a company, Ocean Choice is striving to provide meaningful employment opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador, focused on keeping operations going as close to year-round as possible.
  2. FFAW management has also made reference Ocean Choice receiving exemptions at its processing facilities to ship local seafood out of the province for processing.
    Ocean Choice offshore vessels produce various finished products at sea and ship direct to international markets in product forms that customers demand. The FFAW continues to attack a 2017 agreement between Ocean Choice and the NL Government in which Ocean Choice committed to a minimum of 15 weeks of work in its Fortune plant in exchange for the ability to process some offshore groundfish resources at sea. This agreement has been highly successful for FFAW members working at the Fortune Plant. Under the first year of the agreement Ocean Choice employees actually achieved approximately 25 weeks of employment from groundfish production. The agreement has also resulted in Ocean Choice investing in a new offshore vessel which will create 70 new full-time, year-round jobs in Newfoundland starting in the spring of 2020. This is a great example of how good public policy can work in achieving a ‘balanced fishery’ and providing further investment, increased stability and economic value for the province.
  3. A media release from the union last week accused the Arnold’s Cove plant and its employees of processing frozen cod from Russia instead of cod from this province. Last week, Icewater Seafood’s plant ran a full dayshift at normal capacity processing cod caught by fishers in 3Ps, off the south coast of Newfoundland.

Both Ocean Choice and Icewater Seafoods have many long-standing, positive working relationships with thousands of inshore harvesters throughout the province. The narrative of tensions and power struggles between the two groups is simply not an accurate representation of most of the industry. Inshore harvesters are typically business owners who work respectfully and professionally with processors for the betterment of all.

Icewater Seafoods’ relentless commitment a future for the cod fishery in NL, and reliable work for its employees, was evident long before cod stocks were showing signs of a recovery. When others weren’t thinking about cod, Icewater was investing in world class cod processing technology and focused on cod quality from harvesting through production and marketing. The company has achieved what many thought to be impossible; establishing Newfoundland cod as a competitor in premium European markets against the best plants in Iceland and Norway, despite NL cod quotas equaling less than 10% of the volume landed in Iceland. That was achieved through the vision and commitment of the Wareham family, and from the thousands of harvesters across the province who share that commitment.

“We’ve seen glimpses of the progress that can be made when we work together with FFAW management, focused on positive outcomes for the fishery as a whole,” explained Icewater Seafoods President and CEO Alberto Wareham. “The cod quality grading process is a great example. Icewater worked with the FFAW to reward harvesters who catch grade A fish with higher prices. Harvesters have put in the work with incredible results. From 2015 to 2018, cod sourced from local fishers by Icewater Seafoods went from 65% Grade A to 83% Grade A.”

Collaboration needed in NL Fishery
Improving collaboration within the local fishing industry is essential for achieving a more sustainable, equitable and efficient fishery that will benefit everyone. A shared responsibility between harvesters, plant workers, processors, governments, the union and other fishery stakeholders is required for NL to continue to have a successful local industry that competes on the world stage.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is a small player in a globally competitive industry. The NL fishery needs to work together, discuss concerns respectfully and arrive at solutions that build a better and smarter fishery for everyone,” adds Blaine Sullivan, President of Ocean Choice. “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are some of the smartest and most resourceful people in the world. I am confident that if there was more collaboration and more respect, everyone would be better off.”

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Sarah Fleming, 709.725.5830, sarah@covepublicaffairs.ca
Cara Pike, 709.685.9290, cpike@oceanchoice.com

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