DFO rolls out funds for fish, seafood sector in response to COVID-19
Fisheries minister calls on Canadians to consider the importance of the seafood industry when buying food.
DARTMOUTH, NS — The federal government will soon start taking applications for funding to help the Canadian fish and seafood sector cope with the impacts of COVID-19.
The pandemic has been a financial strain for small- and medium-sized enterprises in the sector, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said in a news release.
In response, Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said boosting Canada’s domestic seafood market is the focus of two funding programs.
“Obviously, fish and seafood in Canada is primarily an export market, but we knew that was going to change significantly with COVID-19,” she said.
Demand in Asian markets started dropping in January, followed by reductions in business from cruise ships and restaurants, Jordan said, adding it’s taking a long time for sales to rebound.
Given those challenges, Jordan said Canadians should consider the importance of the seafood industry when buying food.
“You’re supporting local, coastal communities and independent fishermen in a lot of cases.”
The $62.5 million Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund aims to help seafood processing companies put necessary health and safety measures in place, while increasing capacity to store, package and distribute more seafood at home.
The fund is open to applications on June 22, with more than $38 million earmarked for processors in Atlantic Canada, $9 million for Western Canada and $9 million for Quebec.
Fisheries and Oceans said the money was distributed based on the value of the seafood industry in each region and the funds will flow through regional economic development agencies.
Roger Pacquette, owner of Hub City Fisheries in Nanaimo, BC, estimated international business is down 60% to 70%t because of the pandemic.
Hub City needs equipment that would improve the marketability of its seafood for both domestic and international consumers, he said. People want seafood that’s ready to cook and eat, he said, and processors need support to retool their facilities.
The need for support predates the pandemic, said Pacquette, whose company processes an assortment of seafood including salmon, rockfish and shrimp.
A single piece of equipment can cost as much as $300,000, and Hub City is only one plant among hundreds in Canada, he added.
“You take two or three pieces of equipment, you know, that’s $700,000 or a million dollars right there on equipment for one plant.”
Pacquette said $62.5 million isn’t nearly enough to support the needs of processors across the country, particularly in the West, where he’s seen fisheries and seafood products decrease in value.