Nfld. & Labrador

No takers for extra yellowtail quota

No companies have stepped forward to take advantage of about two million pounds of yellowtail flounder made available through a controversial deal with OCI.

'We didn't get a single proposal come forward,' fisheries minister says

Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley says no one with the appropriate resources offered to take an underutilized yellowtail flounder quota. CBC

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador says there has been no interest from any parties wanting to access some of the two-million pounds of unused yellowtail flounder that it put up for grabs this past December.

The 3LNO quota, which belongs to Icewater Harvesting Inc. based in Arnold's Cove, was made available at the same time as the province was announcing a controversial agreement regarding yellowtail and redfish with Ocean Choice International (OCI). 

The deal between government and OCI allowed the company to bypass the province's minimum processing requirements and ship out all of its redfish and 75 per cent of its yellowtail quotas in a largely unprocessed state.

In return, the company promised to establish 110 full time jobs at its fish plant in Fortune for a period of five years.

With critics suggesting more could be done to add value to the yellowtail resource than merely shipping it out unprocessed, the province announced it would make Icewater Harvesting Inc.'s unused yellowtail quota available to anyone who wanted to access it — provided they had the appropriate suite of harvesting and processing licences and capabilities.

At the time, the government said that there were a "number of harvesters and processing enterprises" who had expressed a "willingness to explore technical and economical feasibility of processing yellowtail flounder with smaller, more economically viable vessels than traditionally used in this fishery."

But Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Derrick Dalley told CBC's Fisheries Broadcast on there have been no takers.

"We had a significant quota that we put out there, looking for proposals from different proponents in the province, and we didn't get a single proposal come forward," Dalley told the Broadcast.

"So I think [that] validates the comments and the research, not only by OCI but certainly by our own government in trying to ensure we can work the best deal possible."

'Only part of the equation'

Dalley said there were a "couple of inquiries" from parties that wanted to fish the resource, although he added, "that was only part of the equation."

He also dismissed suggestions that very few potential proponents — if any at all — could have met all the criteria necessary to access the extra quota. 

"The reality was that the rules that were built around this proposal were very similar to the rules under which OCI would've had to operate in order (for) harvesting, processing and marketing," he said.

"It wouldn't have been fair to allow a company or anyone to come forward and take the yellowtail resource and fish it, and not have to do what was expected of OCI. So we kept it balanced and fair and similar to what OCI had to do."

As for the two million pounds of quota that had been made available, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture says it remains under lease to Icewater.