‘Woefully inadequate’: N.S. announces $2,500 grant for fishers impacted by wildfires

Click to play video: '‘Not even a drop in the bucket’: N.S. fishermen say support for those affected by wildfires isn’t enough'
‘Not even a drop in the bucket’: N.S. fishermen say support for those affected by wildfires isn’t enough
WATCH: The Nova Scotia government has announced that it will be providing financial assistance to licensed fisheries in Nova Scotia affected by wildfires back in June. As Megan King reports, some impacted fishers are still without gear as lobster season inches closer and are saying the current assistance isn't enough – Aug 11, 2023

More than two months after the Shelburne County wildfire, local fishers are still facing uncertainty around what gear they will have ready in time for lobster season.

The loss of one million dollars’ worth of all types of fishing gear for 17 local fishers means an impact on the industry can be expected come fall.

“For lobster season, it’s not like it just happens,” explained Dan Fleck. “The gear has to be received in plenty of time and to be repaired and to make the trawls, to rig it, to get everything done.

“It’s a busy time. It’s not just the opening of the season, it’s the month or two leading up to it to get everything ready.”

Fleck, Brazil Rock 33/34 Lobster Association’s executive director, says communities are even taking things into their own hands — they’ve organized a gear donation day on Aug. 26 at the Ingomar wharf to support those who lost supplies.

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“Lobster season starts in the end of November,” Fleck said. “The herring season for herring gillnet around Little Hope fisheries, that’s going to be starting in a couple of weeks. So, we need to get this on the go.”

To assist licensed fisheries and aquaculture businesses impacted by the wildfires, the province announced Thursday that a one-time grant of $2,500 would be provided — an amount that Fleck calls “woefully inadequate.”

“It’s not just lobster captains or fishers that have been affected here,” Fleck explained. “It’s also blue fin tuna, herring, groundfish, halibut, mackerel. All their fishing gear that’s affected and gone. A lot of it is lobster, but a lot of it is also other species.”

Fleck says it needs to be replaced soon.

“We have a captain who has lost $300,000 and others who have lost less, but $2,500 is not even a drop in the bucket.”

Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Steve Craig told media on Thursday that his department has not stopped looking at ways to assist.

“[I] understand fully that people [have] lost gear through the wildfire through no fault of their own, and that they are looking at the opening up of the season coming up this fall,” said Craig.
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“So, absolutely aware of that. And we are not finished looking at ways that we can assist.”

N.S. Liberal Opposition Leader Zach Churchill responded to Craig’s comments, calling the situation another example of the government “not supporting in the way they need to.”

“I don’t believe that they are supporting our fishermen,” Churchill said. “This is the critical sector to our rural economies, particularly in southwestern Nova Scotia, and I don’t think this government really understands the importance of our fisheries.”

Fleck compared the situation to the extreme cold snap that impacted vineyards earlier this year.

During that time, growers impacted by the weather received $15 million in emergency funding by the province.

“For the lobster fishermen to receive, you know, maybe $35,000 to be split up amongst 17 fishermen, that’s like — I go back to woefully inadequate,” said Fleck.

“You know, we’re not asking for $15 million for these guys, for these crews. But they deserve more than $2,500.”

Craig said he is waiting on a meeting with the new federal minister of fisheries and oceans before speaking to what further supports will be provided to impacted fishers.


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