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April 27, 2004
For immediate release

Government Releases Ocean Choice Agreement

Development and Technology

Development and Technology Minister Mike Currie has tabled the agreement between Ocean Choice PEI and the provincial government. The agreement was signed on Friday evening.

As part of the agreement, Ocean Choice PEI now owns and will operate the processing plants in Souris and Beach Point. The company also owns the facilities at Gaspereaux, Red Head and Victoria as well as all assets at Arisaig and Lismore, Nova Scotia.

Total purchase price for those and other, smaller assets is $17.5 million.

As part of the agreement, Ocean Choice will process 100 per cent of all the lobster it purchases in the Maritimes in its PEI plants. They will not operate another lobster processing plant in the Maritimes without the permission of the province.

Ocean Choice has also agreed to make reasonable efforts to employ 600 workers in PEI for the 2004 lobster season and to maintain those levels in the future.

The company has also promised to invest a minimum of $10 million in PEI over the next five years and to expand the herring and mackerel business in PEI, utilizing the existing in shore fleet.

Ocean Choice has promised to work with the Food Technology Centre and other processors to develop new, value added lobster products. They will also study the feasibility of adding snow crab processing to its PEI operations.

“These commitments will guarantee, not only the existing seafood processing industry in this province - but a bright and diversified future ahead,” said Minister Currie.

Government has had to make some guarantees of it’s own.

No licenses will be issued for lobster processing until the final payment has been received from Ocean Choice. This is consistent with a moratorium on licenses put in place in 1993.

“Like other provinces, which have also moved to address this problem, we recognize that over capacity puts the whole industry at risk. Limiting the number of plants will help to assure the health of the industry and continued employment for Islanders,“ said Minister Currie.

Government has also agreed that any financial assistance offered to any plant on PEI will also be offered to Ocean Choice.

“It’s an issue of fairness - what is available for one must be available for all,“ said Minister Currie. “ What we have in Ocean Choice is a company who has come to PEI with the very best intentions to make a success of their business here. We need to guarantee that all players in the industry have a fair and equal chance of success. We believe this deal will provide them with that chance.”

Government will continue to work with the receivers to dispose of the other assets of Polar Foods.

Media Contact: Ann Thurlow
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