Ocean Choice International sells off its Nova Scotia scallop quota

The company sold its quota to three Nova Scotia companies in exchange for whitefish quota – two years after it lost its scallop vessel.
The now-sunk Atlantic Destiny sitting at a commercial wharf.
The sinking of the Atlantic Destiny in 2021 was a major motivator for Ocean Choice to sell its scallop quota | Photo courtesy of Canada's Transportation Safety Board
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St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada-based Ocean Choice International has sold off its Nova Scotia offshore scallop quota to three separate companies.

Ocean Choice announced the sale 22 February, revealing it sold the quota to three different Nova Scotia-based companies – Mersey Seafoods, LeHave Seafoods, and Comeau’s Sea Foods. All three have a “long history” of harvesting sea scallops in the province, Ocean Choice said. 

“We are committed to sustainably growing our place in the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, and this decision supports our investment and growth in our business and the fishing industry here at home,” Ocean Choice CEO Martin Sullivan said in a release. “Selling our scallop quotas consolidates our operations to Newfoundland and Labrador our home province  reinforcing our commitment to the people and communities who rely on the fishery for employment and economic opportunities.”

The scallop quota is worth an estimated CAD 200 million (USD 148 million, EUR 137 million), the CBC reported, with Ocean Choice holding 16.77 percent of the offshore scallop quota. Sullivan told CBC that after the sinking of the company’s scallop trawler Atlantic Destiny, the company decided not to replace its scallop fishing capacity.

"We had to make a decision on a new vessel, and with the current economic climate, interest rates, and everything else it was a hard decision to make," he told CBC. "We were looking at our options, and we talked to these three Nova Scotia companies that have been industry partners of ours for a long time."

As part of its scallop quota sale, Ocean Choice will, in turn, acquire new Newfoundland and Labrador offshore quota for Greenland halibut and Atlantic cod from Mersey, as well as Greenland halibut, Atlantic cod, and redfish from LeHave. LeHave will also receive Ocean Choice’s offshore quota for Atlantic pollock, haddock, and flounder, as well as Ocean Choice’s assets in Riverport, Nova Scotia. 

The sale marks the second time in the last year Ocean Choice has sold off portions of its resources. In July 2023, the company sold its Port au Choix shrimp processing facility to the Barry Group, citing declining shrimp quotas.

Ocean Choice employs roughly 1,500 people across 300 communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and sources its seafood from over 1,900 independent fishermen, the company said. It also has international sales offices, including offices in Europe, China, and Japan.

Ocean Choice said the latest sale will strengthen its operations and positions the company for future growth in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“In 2024 and beyond, Ocean Choice will be strategically investing in its local processing facilities and offshore fishing vessels to support the sustainable supply of high-quality seafood to its hundreds of customers around the world, positioning the company for future growth internationally,” the company said.

Existing sales and marketing agreements that Ocean Choice has for its scallops will be maintained through a sales and marketing agreement with Mersey Seafoods, which will see Ocean Choice continue to sell Canadian scallops to customers.

“It … makes sense for all parties involved that Ocean Choice continues to sell scallops,” Ocean Choice President Blaine Sullivan said. “We are deep in the market and have excellent relationships with major retail, foodservice, and industrial customers.”

The company added that it “valued” its scallop business in Nova Scotia and worked to find the right buyer, eventually finding it in the three Nova Scotian companies. 

“We are confident that Mersey, LaHave, and Comeau’s – all of which are family-owned businesses – will continue to be good stewards of the scallop resource and that the future of the scallop fishing sector is in good hands,” Sullivan said.

Ocean Choice said Desjardins Capital Markets acted as the exclusive financial advisor to the company for the sale.

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