The federal government has announced funding for a dozen projects in western Nova Scotia to buoy the province’s struggling fish and seafood processing sector.
Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan says the $4.85 million for 12 projects at 11 companies will help the sector retool and find new markets, positioning the industry for a strong post-pandemic recovery.
She says the funding, part of the $62.5-million Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund announced by Ottawa last spring, is expected to create 60 jobs in rural communities across western Nova Scotia.
The projects include modernizing fish processing lines, increasing lobster storage capacity, improving grading stations and scales and adding new refrigeration equipment.
Leo Muise, executive director of the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance, says the province’s seafood industry has experienced ups and downs during the pandemic, with sales to cruise ships and restaurants down drastically while retail sales have been positive and exports to Asia are slowly recovering.
“One thing about the food business — we all have to eat, so retail sales have increased actually, particularly in the United States,” he told reporters in a virtual press conference.
The $4.85 million being delivered by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency includes $443,092 in grants to improve health and safety measures, while the rest of the funding is repayable loans for capital upgrades, new technology and commercial upgrades.
The companies receiving loans of $500,000 include: Clark’s Harbour Seafood of Clark’s Harbour, Deep Cove Aqua Farms of Blandford, Hailmar Fisheries of Lockeport, Ocean Pride Fisheries of Argyle, Rocky Coast Seafoods of Comeauville, Sea Lock Investments of Port Mouton and Synergy Seafoods of Clare.
“There are times when the market is busy and there are times when the market is slow, and having the extra storage capacity to be able to hold all the of the products we are committed to buying is very important for us right now,” said Jamie Stuart, operations manager for Hailmar Fisheries, which is spending its loan on increased lobster storage capacity, and an automated live lobster grading machine.
Andy Schnare, president and owner of Deep Cove Aqua Farms, said the funding has helped him hire two new people and he expects to bring on three or four more.
“The other thing it will help us do is become a full-time operation instead of seasonal, so my workers will have 12-month employment as opposed to six or seven months,” he explained. “Every little bit helps.”
L.J. Robicheau & Son Fisheries of Middleton is receiving a $750,000 loan, Sea Crest Fisheries of Clare is receiving a $57,892 loan, High Liner Foods is receiving a $404,092 grant and Lobster Hub of Clare is receiving a $100,000 loan and $39,000 grant.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2021.
With files from Global News’ Elizabeth McSheffrey