The Government of Canada has authorized financial assistance for increased freezer space to store unsold fishery products for an extended period of time as part of the Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund to help the nation’s fish and seafood processing sector during the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition to funding the enhancement of cold storage space usage, the CAD $62.5 million (US $44.4 million) aid program provides mechanisms to help businesses access short-term financing to pay for maintenance and inventory costs; support new manufacturing/automated technologies to improve productivity and quality of finished seafood products; adapt products to respond to changing requirements and new market demands; comply with new health and safety measures for workers.
“Bolstering our processing sector is vital to supporting fish harvesters and feeding Canadians,” said Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, added: “We know this is a difficult time… Through this new fund, we are helping Canada’s fish and seafood sector remain strong and stable. We have your back to help you keep your employees and bounce back from this pandemic.”
The deadly novel coronavirus that originated in central China late last year has spread to more than 180 countries around the world, wreaking massive economic disruption and human suffering. As of April 27 it was attributed to 2,617 fatalities and 47,319 confirmed infections in Canada. The death toll globally is approaching 200,000.
As Canadians grapple with these uncertain economic times, the Ottawa government has vowed to continue working with provincial and territorial partners, industry, indigenous communities, and stakeholders to identify impacts from the evolving Covid-19 situation.
The Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund will be delivered through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, and Western Economic Diversification Canada. Further details on how and when processors can apply for assistance will be announced in the near future.
While welcoming the funding as a “good first step,” the leader of the FFAW-Unifor union for fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador expressed disappointment that it “does nothing to support fish harvesters.”
“The Covid-19 pandemic came at a critical time in our province’s fishing season,” said President Keith Sullivan. “Delays in fisheries and market challenges will undoubtedly result in serous financial hardship for fish harvesters and plant workers this year. Many workers in the fishing industry have fallen through the cracks in existing federal programs and are looking to our federal government to support workers and their families in coastal communities, not just processing companies.”