Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia fish exporters not intimidated by Trump's anti-free trade talk

Last year, Nova Scotia sold $960 million worth of seafood to the U.S. Even so, some in the fishing industry aren't worried about Donald Trump's claims that he would rip up NAFTA.

'His bark is worse than his bite,' says Dannie Hanson of Louisbourg Seafoods in Cape Breton

Louisbourg Seafoods in Cape Breton isn't concerned about possible changes to free trade between Canada and the U.S. during Donald Trump's presidency. (Vibe Creative Group)

The fishing industry is used to dealing with crises, whether it's collapsing fish stocks, low catch prices or the effects of climate change. 

But clouds of another kind may be gathering on the horizon. Donald Trump, president-elect of the United States, lashed out at trade agreements during the election campaign, and even pledged to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement if it wasn't renegotiated.

Even so, that doesn't faze some people in Nova Scotia's fishing industry — despite the fact that in 2015 the province exported $960 million worth of seafood to the U.S, according to provincial government.  

Donald Trump said on the campaign trail he would dump NAFTA if he could not renegotiate the deal. (Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

"He's not going to tear that up. He's mostly all talk," said Dannie Hanson, vice-president of sustainability for Louisbourg Seafoods in Cape Breton. "His bark is worse than his bite."

"Thirty-five states — their biggest trader is Canada," he said.

"They're all in the government there and they're not just going to let that man destroy us or anybody else." 

'Things will settle down'

Louisbourg Seafoods has a lot on the line when it comes to changes to free trade. The company exports about 85 per cent of its crab, lobster and groundfish to the U.S., worth about $50 million.

Hanson expects Trump may try and alter some free-trade agreements rather than discard them, but he said that could end up benefiting Canada.

Nova Scotia exported $960 million worth of seafood to the U.S. in 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

"I believe people are very scared and over the next number of days or weeks things will settle down and he's just another president. Yes he's going to make changes, but you know maybe that's OK."

'Those people need that fish'

Yarmouth Bar Fisheries Ltd. also does a lot of business with the U.S., and ships about 60 per cent of its product south.   

"I don't know how it's going to affect us, I can't see it being too drastic of a change," said Kenny MacKay, the company's sales manager. 

"The seafood industry does ship a lot of fish to the Boston area and New York and all over the place. Those people need that fish. They can't make it too expensive for us to do it or their economy will hurt too."

MacKay said people may be judging Trump too harshly, since he hasn't taken office yet or actually crafted any government policies.

"Everybody's going on about him, about Trump, but you got to give a guy a chance to see what he does," said MacKay.