By Kathy Johnson
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
By fall is when the federal government expects assistance programs announced earlier this year for the ailing lobster industry to kick into gear. “We are working diligently towards a rollout in the fall,” said Scott Canton, media spokesman for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) when contacted.
More than $75 million has been earmarked by the federal and provincial governments to assist the industry that’s been hard hit by market conditions because of the global economic meltdown.
The funding includes $15 million in immediate, short-term support to assist lobster-dependent harvesters, to “be implemented as soon as possible following the 2009 fishing season,” said Canton. The short-term transitional contributions will compensate for a portion of lost income resulting from the decline in the value of lobster landings. 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 per cent or more in 2009.
More specific eligibility criteria “will be made available as soon as possible,” said Canton.
Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Sterling Belliveau said his office is receiving calls daily from fishermen anxious to know when the federal program is going to be implemented. “We’ve gotten so many calls we’ve started a list of the people inquiring when the program is going to be rolled out and the particulars,” he said. “People are anxiously awaiting more details.”
South Shore-St. Margaret’s MP Gerald Keddy’s office has also been getting lots on inquiries about the program. “We were hoping for a rollout before fall but it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any movement before then,” said Keddy. “I would have liked to see a more timely delivery.”
An additional $50 million in longer term financial assistance, to support the industry in developing and implementing sustainability plans to restructure and build a self-reliant and flexible lobster sector, was also announced by federal Fisheries Minster Gail Shea. “The Department is now consulting and engaging with the lobster industry in developing optimum criteria for these Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures (ALSM),” said Canton.
In addition, a joint government/industry lobster steering committee is being struck to oversee proposals made for the $10 million in Community Adjustment Funding (CAF) from the federal and Atlantic Canada provincial governments for lobster marketing, innovation and product development.
While membership on the committee is not finalized, Keddy said if he isn’t a direct member he still intends to have input.
By Kathy Johnson