In an unprecedented decision the federal Conservative government is allowing one of the region's largest seafood processors to hire a foreign vessel to catch its Canadian fish quota.

The move is being described as a temporary solution to a shore-based disaster, but it is raising questions for some.

"It sets a dangerous precedent," said outgoing Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau. "I'm amazed. When I look at rural Nova Scotia I see boats tied up because they have no access to resource."

Earlier this month federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea approved a request from Premium Seafoods in Arichat, to use the Icelandic factory freezer trawler Venus to catch and process 1,500 metric tonnes of redfish.

In August the company was hit with a devastating fire that destroyed its processing plant.

That's why the company approached Ottawa looking for an exemption to the rule requiring Canadian vessels to catch Canadian quota, said Premium Seafoods president Edgar Samson.

"We did all we could to find local vessels and were unsuccessful," he said. "This is a one time thing."

The company has been given permission for a temporary license that will expire at the end of March 2014.

Between 10 to 14 of the 18-member crew on board must be Canadian. Samson said as many as possible will be workers from the plant destroyed by fire.

The vessel will be based in Arichat.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said the case is exceptional.

"There's never been a request following a plant loss. The policy anticipates granting an exemption when there is a vessel loss," said Stefan Leslie, regional director of fisheries management for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

"So whether there is a precedent being established, it really is a unique set of circumstances where you had a catastrophic loss of shore-based facilities to lead to a foreign vessel being used."

The department accepts Premiums claim that it was unable to find a local alternative.

"They do need a more specialized vessel than what they were able to find. They did go out and look for a Canadian vessel and a place to process. Being unable to do that led to their request," Leslie told CBC News.

Samson insists Premium will be back processing on land next year.

He said two other plants it owns in the area are configured to process crab and shrimp.