N.S. seafood companies harvest scallops for Ocean Choice International after its trawler sinks
'Where it's a high-risk business, we always want to work together and help each other'
Nova Scotia seafood companies have come to the aid of Ocean Choice International of St. John's, harvesting hundreds of tonnes of scallops for the company after its factory trawler Atlantic Destiny sank on Georges Bank in March.
"Thankfully, they had enough capacity among them in the fleet to be able to take the quota out of the water," said Ocean Choice CEO Martin Sullivan.
"They were all really helpful. Firstly, around the sinking, helping us in that situation, but then also helping us harvest our quota."
The company had landed about one-fifth of its 2021 allocation when the trawler went to the bottom in heavy seas.
Sinking left quota on ocean floor
The entire crew was rescued but the sinking left quota held by Ocean Choice worth millions of dollars on the ocean floor off southern Nova Scotia.
Sullivan reached out to the five other companies holding Maritime offshore scallop enterprise allocation licences.
Four of the five were able to help.
"We had a discussion with each of them and we struck an arrangement where they would catch the scallops for us and then we'd have the scallops available for our customer base," he said.
'Next time it could be us'
Ocean Choice is paying fellow licence holders Clearwater, Mersey Seafoods, Adams and Knickle and LaHave Seafoods.
Terms have not been disclosed.
Mersey Seafoods president Greg Simpson said it was the right thing to do. His company is also providing work for the Atlantic Destiny crew.
"Where it's a high-risk business, we always want to work together and help each other," he said. "And we do, especially the scallop industry. We absolutely work together to manage the stock and we want to be there for each other because … next time it could be us.
"I'm 100 per cent sure if it was the reverse the same would happen."
Jane Ritcey, president of Adams and Knickle, agrees.
"We just help each other out," she said. "That's what it's all about. When something happens out there we're there for each other. They don't have a boat. They have quota that needs to be caught. The offshore fleet helps where it can."
Fishery was worth $128M in 2015
The offshore scallop fishery off southern Nova Scotia is one of Canada's most lucrative fisheries.
According to the most recent data from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the fishery was worth $128 million in 2015.
In 2021, the total allowable catch was about 5,000 tonnes, with most of — 4,500 tonnes — caught on Georges Bank.
Clearwater holds the biggest share of the quota with 43 per cent.
Looking for new trawler
Ocean Choice holds 16.77 per cent. It wants to get back on the water as soon as it can.
The company is in the process of designing a replacement trawler. Once that's completed, it's expected to take two years to get a new vessel.
"Our intent now is to build a new vessel and to get back in business as soon as we can,' said Sullivan.
In the meantime, Ocean Choice remains in the offshore scallop business thanks to the other licence holders.
"The important thing is to make sure we get the scallops harvested and that we keep supplying our customer base," Sullivan said. "And we've been doing that well so far and the companies have been really good to work with in helping us do that. We've been really appreciative of the support we've received in this situation."