Agreement with Ocean Choice prohibiting new lobster processing licences in the province for 10 years has expired
© (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
An agreement between the provincial government and Ocean Choice prohibiting new lobster processing licences in P.E.I. for 10 years has expired.
After years of being hampered by an agreement that kept the P.E.I. government from issuing new lobster processing licences, at least one application is waiting for approval for this year’s fishing season.
In an interview with The Guardian, Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley said he couldn’t disclose any information about the company or where it wanted to set up shop, but the completed application was submitted Tuesday.
“We’re open for business in the province of P.E.I. for new processors,” he said.
An agreement between Ocean Choice Inc. and the provincial government prohibited the province from issuing any new lobster processing licences for 10 years as part of the company’s deal to take over failed Polar Foods.
That agreement expired earlier this month.
Ocean Choice, which closed its Souris plant in 2011, and the provincial government are involved in a legal battle over outstanding debt and the company’s claim the province violated their agreement by providing financial aid to its competitors.
In recent years lobster prices have been so low fishermen have said they struggled to make money and there has been a push for more marketing to try and sell more lobster.
Another processor could lead to increased demand for Island lobster and higher prices.
MacKinley said he didn’t know how far along the applicant processor was in their business plans.
“We’ll have a licence for them when they’re ready to start processing.”
With one application completed, MacKinley said a second applicant has expressed interest but didn’t have all of the necessary paperwork in place.
MacKinley said the province has also issued nine more buyers’ licences so far in 2014 than it did all of last year.
There were 40 buyers’ licences issued in 2013.
MacKinley said if every plant that was processing last year is up and running this season the volume of processed lobster will be up.
“That’s a good news story.”