Ocean Choice seeking positive outcome for Marystown
February 11, 2010
Blaine Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer of Ocean Choice International, today affirmed the company is working with the provincial government, its employees and their union, in an effort to keep its Marystown fish processing operation viable for the foreseeable future. The company has presented a proposal to Government, having consulted extensively with its employees and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) that would allow the operation to see continued employment at normal levels while the company works on a long-term plan.
When OCI purchased Fishery Products International’s fish plant assets at Marystown in 2007, it entered into an agreement with the provincial government that detailed expected employment levels, processing commitments as well as capital infrastructure investment. “We’re happy to have met all requirements under the implementation agreement with government, but unfortunately due to a number of circumstances, economic and otherwise, the operation in Marystown is not profitable,” said Sullivan.
According to Sullivan, the facility is operating at a loss and is not sustainable into the future unless some major changes occur. The operation processes mainly Yellowtail flounder, a well-established species that has rebounded following the closure of the groundfish fishery years ago. Market conditions for Yellowtail flounder combined with the high cost of processing at Marystown; have resulted in a challenging situation for OCI and its employees. “In fact,” said Sullivan, “similar conditions have existed at this plant for this species in the years before OCI became involved.”
As a result of these circumstances, over the past year, OCI has met with government, its employees and the FFAW on many occasions to discuss options for moving forward. “We’ve presented a proposal to government which is supported by our employees that would result in continued employment in 2010 for our employees and see a significant increase in work for those working on our trawlers,” he said.
OCI’s proposal to government is a short-term one that is anchored in allowing the company to fish additional Yellowtail flounder, allow larger fish to be processed in Marystown and smaller fish to be exported. This would mean work as usual for the plant for this year, and increased work for those working on our trawlers.
OCI is committed to the plant in Marystown because it sees a more positive future. Based on recent scientific reports its appears a recovery is well underway for American Plaice which would be processed at Marystown, and as we can continue to expand our marketing activities into the European marketplace in a more substantial way with our products, we can position the Marystown operation successfully.
OCI is expecting to hear this week from the provincial government on its proposal for the Marystown operations.
“We really hope we can reach a successful conclusion to this issue. We are concerned about our employees at Marystown and for the local economy,” said Sullivan. “If we all work together, our short-term plan will be beneficial for all stakeholders.”
OCI is actively engaged in a long term plan that includes improvements in its fleet, new technology and innovation in its plant operations and worldwide sales and marketing initiatives.
OCI’s commitment to this segment of our business is evident. The OCI yellowtail flounder fishery is currently under assessment for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification and we expect to have it approved within the next few months.