Canada’s seafood farmers call for more public funding and a change in DFO’s role in the sector

Timothy Kennedy, CAIA's President & CEO. Photo: Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance.
Timothy Kennedy, CAIA's President & CEO. Photo: Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance.

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) has released its proposal for the 2023 pre-budget consultations. Among the requests they consider vital, Canadian aquaculture representatives are asking the government for updated and more sustained funding over time, as well as a change in the role that the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has in the development of the sector. CAIA hopes this will help shellfish farmers recover not only in the immediate aftermath of the damage caused by storm Fiona but in the long term.

A sector flatlined for two decades

According to the CAIA release, early estimates are that PEI shellfish farmers have suffered damages of at least $50 million. The alliance remarked that almost all of them are small and medium-sized businesses that cannot access private crop loss and disaster insurance, and compared them to land-based farmers, who have access to government cost-sharing programs to support them. 

"We appreciate the Prime Minister's commitment of $300M for Fiona recovery, but the federal government must build the proper system of long-term supports to grow the seafood farming sector in Canada", said Timothy Kennedy, President & CEO of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance.

According to him, food security and inflation are top concerns for Canadians, and there is a huge opportunity to grow healthy and 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", Kennedy stated.

The path forward

In its proposal for the 2023 pre-budget consultations, CAIA includes a list of three recommendations that "show the path forward" for the government.

The first is for DFO "to focus on science and regulation and build its reputation as a world-class regulator, while responsibility for sector development and sustainable growth is formally moved to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada". The second is for the creation of a pilot program "for Business Risk Management (BRM) shellfish farmers (such as crop and disaster insurance programs), like those offered to land-based farmers". And the third one is that "the federal program that oversees shellfishing should be adequately funded after 20 years of stagnant funding".

Finally, the CAIA highlights that the Canadian aquaculture sector is poised to advance Canada's goals of domestic and sustainable food supply and security; reduce carbon emissions; increase employment and economic opportunity in rural, coastal and Indigenous communities; as well as seize the opportunity to expand its blue economy. "With the right policy and market signals, Canada's sustainable aquaculture sector is ready to be a major contributor to Canada's present and future health and wellbeing", they stated.

About Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance

Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) is the national association that speaks for Canada's seafood farmers, representing their interests in Ottawa and internationally to regulators, policymakers, and political leaders. CAIA members generate over $5 billion in economic activity, and $2 billion in GDP, and employ over 20,000 Canadians delivering a healthy, growing, and sustainable seafood farming sector in Canada.

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