The Newfoundland and Labrador government says it will not approve permanent exemptions to minimum processing requirements for redfish or yellowtail flounder.
"I am confirming today that this request has been denied," Fisheries Minister Darin King said.
Ocean Choice International made the request to the province in December.
"This type of exemption would be unprecedented," King said. "What their request means is that they want no minimum processing requirements for the future. I have decided this request cannot be entertained. There will be no permanent exemption to redfish or yellowtail."
King said the government is open to multi-year exemptions, but not permanent ones.
Meanwhile, King said the government has made "significant progress" in analyzing OCI's groundfish proposal.
But the minister said the government needs more information from the company on its redfish operations to make a decision.
OCI wants to export unprocessed fish in return for nearly doubling the workforce at the company's plant in Fortune, and making those jobs year-round.
The government first requested that information on redfish from the company two months ago, according to King.
"People involved deserve a prompt decision, but our government won’t be pressured into a decision without all the information required," he said.
According to King, OCI intends to proceed with plans to fish redfish from quotas purchased from licence holders in Nova Scotia, and won't land that catch in Newfoundland and Labrador — unless the government provides an exemption.
"We don’t appreciate these types of tactics," he said.
King said a final decision will be made within weeks of the province receiving all the information it needs from the company.
Fish, Food and Allied Workers union president Earle McCurdy agreed with the government's decision to reject permanent exemptions, and said King is right to be "exasperated" with OCI.
McCurdy accused the company of planning to end on-shore processing of groundfish. He said an agreement between the government and OCI requiring the company to land groundfish in the province expires in just over four years.
"I've been saying for some time that, once that time is up, you can forget about any processing here," McCurdy said. "What they did with this stunt with the redfish absolutely validates that, in my opinion."
OCI's Blaine Sullivan says the company is doing everything above board.
"We are disappointed that both of our proposals have been rejected but we are more disappointed that our credibility has been put into question," he said Friday.
Sullivan said King didn't ask for detailed financial data until just before Christmas and the plan to buy the Nova Scotia redfish quota wasn't provocation. He said it was a business decision that saved jobs on two of his trawlers.
"We had to find solutions for those vessels or turn around and lay those people off as well," he said.
King says a deal is still possible if the company can prove to him it’s a fair one for the province.
OCI said it's going to spend the weekend regrouping and reconsidering its proposals and will have another media briefing on Monday, Jan. 9.