Full-size geoduck clams are kept fresh in seawater before being transported. International markets for specialty products such as this have collapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Full-size geoduck clams are kept fresh in seawater before being transported. International markets for specialty products such as this have collapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Federal fund offers relief to B.C. seafood processors

Industry alliance grateful, but says B.C. deserves more

B.C.’s seafood processors will soon have access to $9 million in federal funds to help them adapt to market instabilities and new safety guidelines brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money is western Canada’s share of the $62.5 million Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund (CSSF) that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced April 25. On Wednesday, June 17, government ministers provided specifics on the aid package’s distribution.

“COVID-19 has created real challenges for our fish and seafood processing sector, and they have continued to respond with tenacity and innovation,” Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard stated in a joint press release. “The Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund will provide the sector with the support they need to increase their capacity and adapt their strategies to meet the changing demands of the consumer. And we know that by bolstering our processors, we are ensuring consistent buyers for our harvesters and a strong food supply chain, one that includes a consistent stream of Canada’s world class fish and seafood.”

In addition to the $9 million earmarked for B.C. and the prairie provinces, Atlantic Canada will share $38.14 million, while Quebec alone will receive $9.2 million. DFO has reserved $6.2 million to address emerging industry needs. The government calculated its funding allotment for each region based on the size of their processing industry.

READ MORE: Government pledges $3M to improve salmon stocks, restoration in B.C.

Christina Burridge, executive director of the B.C. Seafood Alliance, said the funding is very welcome to processors but B.C. deserves more than a 14 per cent share among four other provinces.

“The Seafood Stabilization Fund is unfair to British Columbia. Our share of the funding should have been higher … Quebec has an industry that’s worth around $450 million per year, ours is worth $1.8 billion per year. Yet, they get more than we do.”

She blamed the imbalance on an “genuine anomaly” in how Statistics Canada calculates its salmon aquaculture data, which she said is a complex problem that requires attention once the pandemic eases.

In the meantime she said the sector’s quick response to the pandemic with precautionary measures and layoffs to allow for physical distancing in the plants allowed processors to fare better than some other sectors, but alliance members are still facing mounting costs amid gutted sales. For personal protection equipment alone, she said a mid-sized processing facility in B.C. will have spent about $50,000 to get their employees through to September.

B.C.’s seafood industry is primarily driven by international exports worth $1.39 billion, as of 2018, but the pandemic has halted prime markets for high-end products. Burridge said its highly unlikely that gap can be filled domestically.

“Roughly half our wholesale value comes from live and specialty products like geoduck, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and herring roe. They will never have a domestic market of any substance, so we really have to be focused on regaining those export markets.”

B.C.’s $739-million salmon export sector also faced new challenges this week when state-run-newspapers in China reported a fresh COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing could be traced to a cutting board used for imported European salmon. China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention disproved the hypothesis, but B.C. exporters fear it will have lasting effects on China’s consumer confidence.

READ MORE: B.C.’s wild seafood exports snagged in Beijing’s recent COVID-19 panic

The CSSF is intended to help processors increase storage capacity to better deal with raw materials and manage inventory, adopt new equipment to keep workers safe, improve product quality and packaging, increase productivity and respond to new market demands like transportation solutions.

The fund is open to fish, seafood, and aquaculture processing businesses, as well as not-for-profit organizations that support the sector.

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) will manage the fund in Western Canada. In B.C. applications can be filed beginning June 22 through the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

On June 16, the federal government also announced the re-opening of its $42-million Canadian Fish and Seafood Opportunities Fund in response to COVID-19 pressures. The fund was first launched in 2018 to help the industry access new markets. The program is cost-shared with provinces who cover 30 per cent.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson kneels as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED: Vancouver Island paddle boarder’s orca encounter brings joy and outrage

Woman’s ‘best day’ criticized for disturbing the whales

Tofino’s library is currently located in the basement of the Tofino Legion building but talks are underway to build a brand new facility. (Andrew Bailey photo)
The District of Tofino has put new restrictions in place around alcohol at public events. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino puts new restrictions on alcohol at public events

Town’s council adopts Municipal Alcohol Policy.

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Most Read