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NEWS: Ocean Choice International seeks to export more unprocessed fish overseas

Earlier this month, Ocean Choice International – in their words, “a proud Atlantic Canadian company” – announced that 410 people would be losing their jobs because it was closing down two seafood processing plants in Marystown and Port Union, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Today, CBC reports, “Ocean Choice International is seeking permission from the Newfoundland and Labrador government to export unprocessed fish in return (for creating 110 full-time jobs onshore at the company’s plant in Fortune, plus 150 jobs at sea). The plan would see one quarter of OCI’s yellowtail quota processed there, with the remainder shipped overseas without being processed on land. The provincial government is considering the request.”

The Canadian Press notes, “Except where exemptions apply, Ocean Choice is (currently) required to land fish in the province and then follow minimum processing regulations along with restrictions on fish exports.”

The CBC highlights, “The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union has been sharply critical of the plan.” Earle McCurdy, head of the union representing harvesters and fish plant staff, says, “We believe that unless government steps in now, its ability to have any control whatsoever over the disposition of those really valuable public resources is lost for good. …In very short order, there will be no restriction whatsoever on the company’s ability to ship every single pound out of the province unprocessed. We’ll have no shore-based employment whatsoever in this province.” The Canadian Press adds, “McCurdy is urging the province to use processing rules as leverage to protect jobs. He said the province must stand up to companies such as Ocean Choice International that increasingly want to export whole fish to China, Japan and other markets.”

Additionally, CBC reports, “(Newfoundland and Labrador’s) Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett (and former provincial fisheries minister Jim Morgan) wants the (federal) Competition Bureau to investigate Ocean Choice International. They say OCI controls too much of the country’s yellowtail quota, and want the Competition Bureau to force OCI to sell parts of that quota to other harvesters.”

This past January, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote in a Globe and Mail op-ed about the alarms raised by a trade sustainability impact assessment on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) commissioned by the European Commission. She writes, “The EU is seeking to remove export restrictions and foreign investment limits from Canadian (fish) processing plants, as well as increased access to Canadian ports to bring the raw fish back to Europe for processing. Europe has overfished its own waters and is seeking uncontrolled access to ours; the impact report warns that CETA will likely lead to overfishing, especially in the Atlantic.”

Read more about CETA at www.canadians.org/ceta.