The Atlantic provinces will soon be able to tap into a $325-million federal fund designed to boost the region's seafood industry.
The Atlantic Fisheries Fund was announced last summer but federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc only made the budget public Friday.
"I am confident that this new $325-million federal investment will solidify the importance of seafood and fish to the economy of Atlantic Canada," LeBlanc told a news conference in the Halifax area.
"[It] will contribute long-term prosperity to our region and will allow our women and men, who have worked for generations so hard in this sector, to see the true economic potential of this remarkable resource."
Representatives from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I., were on hand at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport to offer their support to the initiative, despite the fact no province has yet formally signed onto the agreement to make the money available to their province.
Atlantic Canadian brand
Nova Scotia's Stephen McNeil personally thanked Ottawa for creating the fund. The premier already has his sights set on using the fund to help create an Atlantic Canadian brand.
"I think one of the things Atlantic Canadians need to start saying loud and clearly is that 80 per cent of our fishery comes from Atlantic Canada," McNeil told the dozens of guests gathered in an airplane hanger.
"We punch way above our weight when it comes to exporting what is a commodity that we, as a country, are known for and well-known for.
"People are looking for Canada's seafood and it's in Atlantic Canada. And this fund will allow us to come together and promote that."
Industry representatives expressed excitement at the prospect of funds being available to them to help sell more of what they grow or catch. Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada, called it great news for his group.
"From what I've seen it covers all of the major challenges we have — innovation, [research and development], marketing, marketability, all these types of issues," he said.
'We have a strategy all ready to go'
Irvine said his group is almost ready to launch a Canadian branding program.
"For us, our marketing campaign for Canadian lobster, we have a strategy all ready to go. I think that would be an obvious one. We would try to get some money to do that."
Chief Terrance Paul of the Membertou First Nation and representative of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs said he sees opportunity in this fund for Indigenous communities.
"We've been fishing here at least 10,000 years so you know it is very, very important for us," he said. "We want to continue to be part of it and expand with it."
Looking to Norway
Paul said he travelled to Norway on a trade mission a couple of years ago and was impressed by the potential in aquaculture.
"It is an industry that is growing tremendously and what I found out in Norway, in a country of that size, every day there's 89 trucks leaving the country full of fish. And that's where we need to get to."
LeBlanc said Ottawa won't be setting stringent limits on what it will fund, instead working with the provinces to see what makes the most sense to support.
"Very quickly we're going to identify with each provincial government a series of investments that we together believe would improve the economy of the region, create more jobs, better jobs, open new markets and we'll proceed on that basis."