Atlantic Fisheries Fund hands out 1st grants to N.L. harvesters

A fund set up to offset the political fallout about giving up minimum processing requirements in Newfoundland and Labrador has allocated its first batch of money.

8 fish harvesters getting money for automated longlines and ice storage systems

MP Seamus O'Regan was one of the politicians making the fishery fund announcement in Corner Brook on Thursday. (Twitter: @SeamusORegan)

Eight Newfoundland and Labrador fish enterprises will benefit from a federal-provincial fund established in the wake of a controversial European trade deal.

The harvesters, from Mary's Harbour in Labrador to Petty Harbour on the Avalon Peninsula, will share in $641,518. The money will finance automated longlines and ice slurry systems that will keep fish fresh onboard vessels.

"It takes a lot of manpower out of it and the number of hooks I can use is numerous compared to what I can do by hand," said Dwight Russell of Mary's Harbour, who is looking at a system with 27,000 hooks for cod and turbot.

"It's a lot of hooks, but we're preparing for the future. It's not for tomorrow and it's not for next year ... there's a resource off our doorstep and if there's any cod available, we want to be part of it."

An automated longlining system like the one used on this vessel has tens of thousands of hooks and reduces the time it takes to haul in a catch. (Mustad promotional video)

Russell received a grant of $99,813 to help pay for the system, which cost him roughly $300,000.

The grants, announced Thursday in Corner Brook, are the first to be issued under the $400-million Atlantic Fisheries Fund set up a year ago.

Political friction

The fund was hugely controversial since in 2013 the province was promised $280 million by the Conservative government of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper as part of negotiations for a Canada-European Trade Agreement (CETA).

The money was meant to offset the elimination of minimum processing requirements in Newfoundland and Labrador.

When the subsequent Liberal government announced a modified fisheries innovation fund in March 2017, it earmarked a lesser amount — $100 million — for the province, with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island also getting shares. 

Alton Rumbolt, who fishes out of Mary's Harbour in Labrador, received $81,860 to install a new automated line, one like he checked out at an Icelandic trade fair last fall. (Jane Adey/CBC)

With the money finally flowing, both levels of government are stressing the importance of innovation, new technology and science partnerships.

Dwight Russell is buying his new longline gear from a Norwegian manufacturer. Another Mary's Harbour fisherman who's getting a grant, Alton Rumbolt, is also investing. He checked out the technology during a trade show in Iceland last fall.

One other fishing enterprises in the Labrador community also received money, as did harvesters from St. Anthony, Durrell, Port aux Choix, Petty Harbour and St. John's.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said more projects will be announced over the next seven years.

"We have an important opportunity that must not be wasted to raise the bar on quality and value for our industry, our communities and the people who earn their living from the sea," said Gerry Byrne, provincial minister of fisheries.

About the Author

Marilyn Boone

CBC News

Marilyn Boone is a producer who works with the CBC bureau in St. John's.

With files from The Broadcast