Canada shoring up fisheries, aquaculture sectors with aid package, essential industry declaration

Canada has moved to support its fisheries and aquaculture sectors with an aid package that will provide both direct and indirect support to the industry and its employees.

Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan announced aquaculture and seafood processing companies will have access to the CAD 5 billion (USD 3.5 billion, EUR 3.2 billion) Farm Credit Canada loan program. And fishermen, processing workers, and front-line aquaculture workers are entitled to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides CAD 2,000 (USD 1,400, EUR 1,300) per month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, small- and medium-sized businesses will have accesss to CAD 65 billion (USD 45.7 million, EUR 41.8 million) in support via interest-free loans provided through the Canada Emergency Business Account and the Export Development Canada and Business Development Bank.

“We continue to work together, across all levels of government, and in partnership with harvesters, processors, seafood farmers, and industry, to keep Canadians safe and communities supported,” Jordan wrote in a 27 March statement. “The seafood sector, and the hard-working women and men behind it, are essential to our collective food security and to Eastern Canada’s economies.

Jordan said decisions on potential delays to the opening dates for upcoming fishing seasons will be made “in consultation with impacted partners and with sound science-based approaches.”

“We recognize that current market conditions facing our industry are challenging, and the need to ensure that logistical support systems are in place to facilitate the movement and sale of seafood products,” she said.

The lobster season in fishing areas 36 and 37 in southern New Brunswick has already been pushed back one month, according to the CBC, following a request by the Fundy North Fishermen's Association to delay the season start until the end of April. And the season in fishing areas and 33 and 34 faced possible curtailment as Nova Scotia’s lobster buyers and processors said the market had collapsed due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

The Maritime Fishermen's Union, which represents more than 1,200 independent inshore owner-operator fishermen in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, is working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to assess market and working conditions, and develop mitigation plans that “consider the possibility of a limited, postponed, or canceled season.”

In British Columbia, where farmers produce about 87,000 metric tons of salmon annually, provincial officials announced that aquaculture and fishing sectors, as well as businesses that support the food supply chain, all classify as essential services and will be exempt from the business shutdown imposed as part of a state of emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“This designation is a significant responsibility, and one we take seriously,” BC Salmon Farmers Association Executive Director John Paul Fraser said in a press release. “B.C.’s salmon farmers, and local businesses that support aquaculture are stepping up to do our part to ensure our food supply remains robust during this pandemic. Together with Canada’s farming community, we will work hard to keep Canadians nourished with healthy food at this unprecedented time.”

In order to keep their operations running, seafood processors and other related service sectors have secured an exemption allowing them to hire and bring into Canada temporary foreign workers. However, those entering the country will need to isolate for the first 14 days after their arrival.

In her statement, Jordan said the Canadian government will continue to monitor and assess the best route forward for the Canadian fisheries and aquaculture industries, with the goal of a return to normal business operations as soon as possible.

“We continue to share market intelligence and feedback from the sector to help support the livelihood of this vital industry, while always ensuring the health and safety of fishers, processing plant workers, and aquaculturists are front and center,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Jane Rix/Shutterstock


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