The president of the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance is lauding a funding announcement to help Canada’s fish and seafood sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic, despite not knowing many specifics.
In a press briefing Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $62.5 million for seafood processors.
The funds will go toward purchasing personal protective equipment for workers and outfitting facilities with new refrigeration and storage capacity, said Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan.
NSSA president Osborne Burke has been speaking with federal and provincial leaders for several weeks about the need for assistance when it comes to additional costs of PPE and installing Plexiglas barriers.
Burke said he’s “very pleased” that the industry’s concerns are being heard provincially and nationally.
“At the end of the day, we want facilities to be as safe as possible, do as much as we can to protect everybody, and that is taking place,” Burke said.
Burke, also general manager of Victoria Co-op Fisheries in Neils Harbour, N.S., said it has cost his facility more than $60,000 so far to make changes.
He said any assistance on PPE costs should apply to harvesters and their fishing vessels, too. Their costs wouldn’t be as high as those for processing facilities.
‘Devil’s in the details’
“The devil’s in the details, which we haven’t seen yet,” he said.
Saturday’s funding announcement only applies to processors, but Jordan referred to it as a “first step.”
“We are addressing the processors’ needs right now, but the harvesters’ needs are definitely front and centre,” she said.
The Department of Oceans and Fisheries is aware there are “gaps” in funding, Jordan said, and efforts are underway to address them.
The money announced Saturday will be available through regional development agencies, though amounts available to each processor are still being determined.
Jordan said more information about how and when to apply will be available in the coming days.
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