Canada budgeting up to CAD 469.4 million in support for struggling fish harvesters

Published on
May 14, 2020

The Canadian government is moving forward with up to CAD 469.4 million (USD 333.4 million, EUR 309.2 million) in new measures aimed at supporting the country’s fishing industry, which has been under tremendous stain due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.  

In a 14 May announcement, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the investment builds upon the CAD 62.5 million (USD 44.3 million, EUR 41.1 million) put forth in last month’s Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund, and focuses on supporting Canada's fish harvesters who are economically impacted by the pandemic, but cannot access existing federal measures.

As part of its new support package, the Canadian government plans on launching the Fish Harvester Benefit, a CAD 267.6 million (USD 190 million, EUR 176 million) program intended to help “provide income support for this year's fishing seasons to eligible self-employed fish harvesters and sharespersons crew who cannot access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy,” it explained in a press release. Workers who experience fishing income declines of greater than 25 percent in the 2020 tax year – compared with a reference period to be identified – will qualify for support under the measure, which covers 75 percent of fishing income losses beyond a 25 percent income decline threshold, up to a maximum individual entitlement equivalent to what is provided under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which is CAD 847 (USD 601, EUR 557) per week for up to 12 weeks.  

Additionally, the country’s government will also launch the Fish Harvester Grant, a program worth up to CAD 201.8 million (USD 143.3 million, EUR 132.8 million) aimed at offering grants to help fish harvesters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic who are ineligible for the Canada Emergency Business Account or equivalent measures. Non-repayable support of up to CAD 10,000 (USD 7,102, EUR 6,585) to self-employed fish harvesters with a valid fishing license will be included in this program, with the amount of support varying depending on the level of a fish harvester’s historic revenue.

Trudeau said the government would also be looking into proposing new measures or changes to employment insurance (EI) “that would allow self-employed fish harvesters and sharespersons to access EI benefits on the basis of insurable earnings from previous seasons (winter and summer claims).”

“Fish harvesters work hard to provide Canadians with nutritious food to put on their tables, and are a vital part of our food supply from coast to coast to coast. This investment will help ease the burden on the people and businesses at the heart of our fishing and seafood industry. We are here to support them,” Trudeau said.

Canadian Minister of Finance Bill Morneau said the announced measures were meant to bolster a crucial industry at a time of great need.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in reduced demand and declining prices for Canadian fish and seafood products, and has had significant impacts on the livelihoods of Canadian fishers. With today's announcement we are making sure fish harvesters can get the support they need in these times of crisis," Morneau said.

The coastal and rural communities that derive much of their commerce from Canada’s seafood sector would also benefit significantly from these new investment initiatives, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan added.

"Canada's fish and seafood harvesters are the driving economic force behind many coastal and rural communities. While hardship and uncertainty are felt across the economy, the fishing sector faces unique challenges that require direct solutions. With this announcement, we are ensuring that Canada's hardworking fish harvesters get the support they need now and into the future," Jordan said.

More details on the measures will be made available in the coming days.

“The government of Canada is committed to supporting the resilience of Canada's food system and its workers. We will continue to monitor and respond to the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19, and take additional actions as needed to protect the health and safety of Canadians, and stabilize the economy,” it said in a press release.

On Saturday, 25 April, the Canadian government rolled out the CAD 62.5 million (USD 44.5 million, EUR 41.1 million) Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund. Allocations made under the fund are being distributed to applicants who show they will use the funding to access short-term financing to pay for maintenance and inventory costs; add storage capacity for unsold product; comply with new health and safety measures for workers; support new manufacturing or other automated technologies to improve productivity and quality of finished seafood products; or adapt products to respond to changing requirements and new market demands.

The country’s government has created a suite of targeted initiatives to support Canadians – including Canada's fishing, aquaculture, and processing sectors – through the COVID-19 pandemic, it said, including:

  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a taxable benefit of CAD 2,000 (USD 1,420, EUR 1,317) every 4 weeks, for up to 16 weeks to eligible workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19. The government also extended the eligibility of this benefit to individuals who earn up to CAD 1,000 (USD 710, EUR 658) per month, as well as workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular or fishing benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
  • An investment of CAD 50 million (USD 35.5 million, EUR 32.9 million) to help farmers, fish harvesters, and all food production and processing employers put in place the measures necessary to follow the mandatory 14-day isolation period required of all workers arriving from abroad. This means the government will provide CAD 1,500 (USD 1,065, EUR 988) per temporary foreign worker, to employers, or those working with them to ensure the isolation requirements are fully met.
  • The Business Credit Availability Program, which allows the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) to provide CAD 65 billion (USD 46.1 billion, EUR 42.8 billion) of additional support to small and medium-sized businesses. Support for mid-sized companies with larger financing needs will include loans of up to CAD 60 million (USD 42.6 million, EUR 39.5 million) per company, and guarantees of up to CAD 80 million (USD 56.8 million, EUR 52.7 million).
  • The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), which allows Regional Development Agencies to provide CAD 962 million (USD 683.4 million, EUR 633.7 million) of additional support to businesses and communities economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that cannot access existing measures. 
  • Small businesses in the fishing and aquaculture industry may be eligible for subsidies for employee salaries, encouraging them to keep staff on payroll through this difficult time, and businesses from across the sector may benefit from enhanced access to credit and deferred taxes.

Photo courtesy of  Art Babych/Shutterstock

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500