Homes in Atlantic Canada are washed into the sea during Storm Fiona.

Canada urged to give more help to storm-hit shellfish farmers

Damage to uninsured sector estimated at $50m

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The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) has urged the federal government to give more aid to shellfish farmers hit hard by Storm Fiona, and to put more of a focus on growing the aquaculture sector.

Hurricane Fiona caused death and destruction in the Caribbean last month before continuing north and making landfall in Atlantic Canada in late September as the strongest post-tropical cyclone ever recorded in the country.

The CAIA said early estimates are that shellfish farmers in Prince Edward Island (PEI) have suffered a minimum of $50 million in damages because of the storm.

“Almost all these marine farmers are small and medium-sized businesses who cannot access private insurance for crop loss and disasters, while land farmers have access to government cost-sharing programs to support them,” added the CAIA.

Recovery fund

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $300 million recovery fund for Atlantic Canadians on Tuesday.

Tim Kennedy: Federal government must build a proper system of long-term supports to grow the seafood farming sector in Canada.

CAIA president and chief executive Tim Kennedy said: “Food security and inflation are the top concerns of Canadians, and we have a massive opportunity to grow healthy, sustainable seafood in Canada through aquaculture. However, our sector growth has flatlined for two decades, in large part because of a lack of will at the federal level. An event like Fiona sets us back, but also brings to attention the lack of consistent, national programs for seafood farmers to succeed.

“We appreciate the Prime Minister’s commitment of $300 m for Fiona recovery, but the federal government must build the proper system of long-term supports to grow the seafood farming sector in Canada.”

Innovation support

In its submission to the federal government’s 2023 pre-Budget consultations, the CAIA argues that a pilot program for shellfish farmers for business risk management (such as crop and disaster insurance programs offered to land farmers) must be created.

It also calls for the federal program that oversees shellfish to be properly funded after 20 years of funding flatline; increased program support for innovation in aquaculture technologies; and program support for investments in the rainbow trout sector needed to implement Canada’s new animal welfare code for finfish.

The CAIA’s submission also repeats a call made earlier this week for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to concentrate on science and regulation, and formally transfer aquaculture promotion and development activities to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.