12/21/2012 07:24 EST | Updated 02/20/2013 05:12 EST

N.L. allows Ocean Choice to ship offshore in exchange for fish plant jobs

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador has made a deal to allow one of its largest seafood companies to ship unprocessed yellowtail flounder offshore in return for a guarantee of jobs at a fish plant.

The province says in a news release that a quarter of yellowtail landings must be processed at the Ocean Choice processing plant in Fortune, N.L.

Under terms of the bargain, processing of the groundfish will commence within six months at the Fortune plant, creating 110 jobs.

The province says the remainder of the flounder and all of the company's redfish catch can be sent for processing in out-of-province plants.

Earlier this year, the province had said it couldn't permit the offshore exports because the company wasn't guaranteeing enough benefits for the province's processing plants.

However, Dalley said the agreement is a step forward from that impasse, and came after "months of intense negotiation."

"We are forging a new partnership here today that, as is the case in all successful partnerships, each party needs the other," he said in a release.

The news release says that Ocean Choice International will be required to make a minimum investment of $1 million in capital improvements at the plant, and the jobs must last at least five years.

The company must also use Canadian crews on its harvesting vessels.

In addition, the company is required to provide a "top up" of $2.50 per hour to a maximum of 560 hours for a program that supports workers displaced by the closure of the company's facilities at Marystown and Port Union.

Martin Sullivan, the chief executive of Ocean Choice, said the deal is a good one, and he's "committed to make this arrangement work for the long-term."

Yellowtail flounder is mostly harvested on the Grand Banks, with Ocean Choice as the major player in the industry.

A moratorium was declared in 1994, but the fishery reopened in 1998 as the stock showed signs of recovery.

A consulting study done for the province says the industry faces challenges caused by the high Canadian dollar, competition from low-cost processing firms in Asia, and an increased supply from competing whitefish species.