Ottawa: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced an aid package of 62.5 million Canadian dollars (about US $44 million) for the country’s fish and seafood sector to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fish and seafood are among the country’s top food exports and the sector reportedly employs some 72,000 people.
Fisheries and seafood processors are worried that they could not employ enough labor, including temporary foreign workers to fill out their workforce, while others have called for delays to the spring season as they work to establish proper safety protocols. Trudeau said at his press conference in Ottawa that the aid is earmarked for personal protective equipment and to help fish and seafood companies adapt their plants to comply with health directives.
“We’re giving more money to processors so they can purchase personal protective equipment for workers, adapt to health protocols and support other social distancing measures,” Trudeau said.
“Fish processing plants can buy new equipment, like freezers or storage space, so that their product for Canadians can stay good while they respond to a changing market,” he added.
The Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund will be delivered through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, and Western Economic Diversification Canada. Further details on how and when processors can apply for assistance will be confirmed at a later date.
Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan said that her ministry was in talks with industry members about season openings and the state of the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The women and men in our fish and seafood sector have been feeding this country for generations.
“Through the new Fund, our government is investing directly into this sector, ensuring the industry has the support it needs to adapt to current realities brought on by COVID-19. Bolstering our processing sector is vital to supporting fish harvesters and feeding Canadians.”
“I recognize the concerns harvesters and communities have around the ability to conduct a safe fishery, and I am encouraged by provincial governments and various organizations and associations who have developed protocols to keep people safe,” she added.