Nova Scotia

Ottawa sets aside $38M for Atlantic Canada seafood plants

The federal government is announcing new details about how much money will be spent to help the seafood sector adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, including helping with the costs of personal protective equipment for workers and more freezers.

Money to help processors with costs of protective equipment, new refrigeration

New details were announced Wednesday of how $62 million for Canadian seafood processors will be distributed. (Vibe Creative Group)

A new federal fund to help Canadian seafood processors adapt to the COVID -19 pandemic will start accepting applications on Monday.

The $62-million Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund was announced on April 25 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help the seafood sector offset the costs of health and safety measures to protect workers and operational changes like adding more refrigeration.

On Wednesday, Ottawa provided more details, including the June 22 start date.

A little over $38 million has been set aside for processors in Atlantic Canada. Applications will be reviewed on a first-come-first-served basis, and the program will be administered by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The fund will pay for expenses incurred after March 15, according to federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, who noted snow crab and lobster seasons opened in April and May in several parts of Atlantic Canada.

"We knew that people had to get ready quickly," she said in an interview. "If they've already done the work they can still apply for the money as long as it was since March 15th."

What will the money be used for

In addition to personal protective equipment and plastic screens to separate workers, the industry had to absorb market changes.

The downturn forced plants to store products longer. Demand for fresh seafood fell while demand for frozen increased.

"Because we are primarily an export market of fresh product there was limited capacity for storage," said Jordan.

"The ability to have freezers and refrigeration, something that we've recognized now is lacking in a lot of these places because of the fact that they were always sold right from, you know, right out of the door basically. And we're making sure that they have things that they need for the long term to get through this pandemic."

Quebec and Western Canada

Regional development agencies are administering all the funds.

Processors in Quebec are eligible for $9.1 million through Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions. On the West Coast, $9 million is being made available through Western Economic Diversification Canada.

In a news release, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it is retaining $6.2 million "to respond to emerging industry pressures related to COVID-19, including for example, providing additional funding in regions where there is a high demand for support."

The federal government also relaunched the $42.85 million Canadian Fish and Seafood Opportunities Fund. The cost-shared program (70 per cent federal, 30 per cent provincial) was first introduced in 2018 to promote Canadian seafood overseas.

It's being revamped to pitch the product to Canadians.

"Because of the collapse in the export market because of the pandemic we wanted people to have the ability to market domestically," Jordan said.

She said the money is for associations, Indigenous groups and others who "want to brand Canadian seafood."

"We want people to be able to recognize what an important source of protein it is here at home," she said, "and make sure that they buy it locally and support our local or local harvesters and our economy."