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East Coast fishers collect $96 million from Ottawa aid package

Inshore fishing boats in Summerville, Bonavista Bay. — SaltWire Network file photo
Anticipating that COVID would keep a lot of boats tied up this year, the Canadian government rolled out a multi-million-dollar aid package for harvesters this summer. But only a portion of the money budgeted had to be spent. SaltWire Network file photo

Ottawa didn’t spend as much money as expected this year on aid for fish harvesters impacted by COVID.

When the pandemic hit earlier this year just as the fishing season was about to start, the Canadian government rolled out a $479 million compensation program for fish harvesters and fishing enterprise owners.

Today, in a statement to mark World Fisheries Day, Fisheries and Oceans minister Bernadette Jordan said this year’s fishing season was better than expected, and Ottawa used just $126 million of the budgeted amount.

She said the program helped more than 18,000 fishers across Canada.

Over 11,000 of them were from the East Coast, where most of the money - approximately $96 million - was paid out.

The minister’s office provided a breakdown, by province, from Atlantic Canada, as follows:

In Newfoundland and Labrador, there were 5,460 applicants, and the total benefits paid were just over $35.5 million.

In Nova Scotia, 4,707 harvesters collected a total of $34.4 million.

In Prince Edward Island, $18.2 million was paid out to 1,848 applicants.

In New Brunswick, the payout was just over $9 million to 1,132 applicants.

“We prepared for the worst but, thankfully, the industry was pretty resilient,” a spokesperson for Jordan’s office told SaltWire.

In a prepared statement, Jordan said, “Throughout the pandemic, thousands continued to fish, keeping our economy strong and grocery freezers stocked. They took meticulous precautions to keep each other, and their communities safe.”

Jordan’s statement did not offer any details on how much money the Fish Harvester benefit fund paid out to fishers in Atlantic Canada, or the number of fish harvesters who received help through the fund.

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