Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the support Thursday, acknowledging the financial pinch and safety concerns harvesters are facing as fishing seasons open across the country.
“You can’t harvest lobster from inside your house, so that leaves you trying to figure out how to either space people out on a fishing boat or cancel your operations. Its not an easy call to make,” Trudeau said.
He also pointed to decreasing prices and reduced demand for products that have put pressure on harvesters and their families.
“This adds up to a really tough time, so I want you to know that we’re listening,” he said.
The new aid comes in the form of an industry-specific benefit and a grant.
The Fish Harvester Benefit, structured similarly to the previously announced federal wage subsidy, offers income support covering 75 percent of losses for harvesters who see their income drop by at least 25 percent this year.
The program, with up to $267.6 million available, will provide a maximum individual amount of $847 per week, for up to 12 weeks, the same as the existing wage subsidy program.
The Fish Harvester Grant is a sector-specific grant similar to the Canada Emergency Business Account, offering up to $10,000 of non-repayable support to self-employed harvesters.
Trudeau also addressed concerns among harvesters who may not generate enough income to file a valid Employment Insurance claim for next year.
He says proposed measures would allow self-employed harvesters to access benefits based on insurable earnings from previous years.
The measures come amid mounting concerns about support from Ottawa as fish harvesters prepared to head out on boats this spring.
A statement from federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan said the fishing sectors face unique challenges.
“Canada’s fish and seafood harvesters are the driving economic force behind many coastal and rural communities,” Jordan said. “With this announcement, we are ensuring that Canada’s hard-working fish harvesters get the support they need now and into the future.”