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On June 10, 2009, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea announced that the Harper Government is making a five-year $65 million investment to assist lobster fishers throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec adjust to the collapse in lobster prices caused by the global recession while building a more sustainable lobster fishery for future seasons.
These measures include the following:
Combined, these measures will provide direct, short-term financial support for harvester groups to develop and implement sustainability plans in their Lobster Fishing Area (LFA). The program is flexible enough to accommodate the varying circumstances found in each LFA, allowing harvester groups to develop their own plan that responds to the unique needs of their area.
Sustainability plans will also be designed to meet the growing market requirements for eco-certification, as detailed by the Marine Stewardship Council’s Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing, and the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council in its report Sustainability Framework for Atlantic Lobster, 2007.
While the details of sustainability plans will vary from LFA to LFA they may include conservation and effort reduction measures designed to reduce harvesting capacity. In order to meet the emerging eco-certification requirements of the global seafood market, the Atlantic lobster industry will likely have to demonstrate that overall fishing pressures on the resource are sustainable over the long term. In 2009 the industry group Atlantic Alliance for Fisheries Renewal set an overall target of 30% effort reduction across Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures for Low Income Areas are targeted at those LFAs where dependence on income from lobster fishing is high and where landings have been particularly low. Approximately 25% of LFAs fall within this category. Ecosystem pressures in these LFAs have left harvesters with a high dependency on lobster earnings, but with chronically low landings. These LFAs will particularly benefit from efforts to enhance sustainability, and $15 million has been set aside to directly support harvester groups in these areas to develop and implement sustainability plans.
This announcement also includes $15 million in Short-term Transitional Contributions that will assist low-income harvesters severely harmed by the collapse in market demand for lobster caused by the global recession. The short-term transitional contributions will compensate for a portion of their lost income resulting from the decline in the value of lobster landings. In order to qualify, applicants must be essentially lobster-dependent fishers; must have earned income from lobster fishing in both 2008 and 2009; and must have seen their income from lobster landings drop by 25% or more in 2009. Eligibility criteria for the program will be made available as soon as possible. This program is only available for the 2009 fishing season.
These announcements build on previous investments in the lobster fishery contained within the Harper Government’s Economic Action Plan. To date these investments include a $10 million investment in lobster marketing, innovation and product development provided through the Community Adjustment Fund. The Governments of Canada, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick additionally jointly contributed $455,000 for marketing Atlantic lobster. Minister Shea has also announced that federal and provincial governments and industry will collaborate in a lobster development council to address domestic and international market access issues including eco-certification.
Canada’s Economic Action Plan also includes several initiatives to improve access to financing for people who work in the lobster fishery. These initiatives include providing easier access to credit from Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada through the Business Credit Availability Program; as well help for businesses to finance the purchase of vehicles and equipment through the Canadian Secured Credit Facility.