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Nova Scotia ‘leading the way’ in Canada’s seafood sector; former DFO minister was right on the money

That’s fair to say when recent news that the Halifax airport has opened a new $36-million cargo park to fly millions of pounds of seafood to global markets is combined with Dartmouth's new $20-million seafood packaging plant opening later this fall. It’s also fair to say Newfoundland and Labrador has been asleep at the wild fishery wheel for the years it has taken to put that plan in motion.

The new cargo facility at the Halifax airport is Atlantic Canada's largest, with a cold-storage facility and eight cargo aircraft aprons or parking spaces. Over 10 million/lbs of live lobster were exported from the airport in each of the last three years, with plans to dramatically increase that amount.

Meantime, Newfoundland and Labrador still struggles with setting fish prices, let alone figuring out how to transport lobster to China in 17 hours. (Three of four Canadian lobsters in Chinese markets were reportedly shipped direct from Halifax airport.)

It's hard enough to get a taxi at St. John's airport, let alone a cargo jet of fresh snow crab from YYT to New York, London, Paris, or Munich.


A subsidiary of Ocean Choice International (OCI), one of this province's largest processing companies, is expected to open a new $20-million secondary-processing facility in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in the fourth quarter of 2022.

In announcing $10.3 million in funding for that operation from ACOA and the Atlantic Fisheries Fund in July 2021, then federal-Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan said Nova Scotia was "leading the way" in Canada's seafood sector.

SEA-NL accused the minister at the time of showing favouritism to her home province, but there's no doubt Nova Scotia is far ahead of Newfoundland and Labrador in the wild seafood business.

In 2020, seafood exports from this province were valued at $881 million, compared to about $2 billion for Nova Scotia.

The $400-million Atlantic Fisheries Fund was initially supposed to be solely for Newfoundland and Labrador as compensation for the province giving up minimum fish processing requirements as part of the Canada/EU free-trade deal.

Funds were later earmarked for all of Atlantic Canada on a 70/30 federal/provincial split, and OCI is building its state-of-the-art plant in Dartmouth to package fish from provinces including Newfoundland and Labrador with an $8-million repayable contribution from that fund.

At the same time, OCI is building a controversial new development in Long Pond, Conception Bay South that includes an office building, cold-storage, and wharf facilities — but no new “showcase” plant.

Let there be no doubt, this province's wild commercial fisheries are falling behind province's like Nova Scotia, and in the absence of leadership and vision there will be no catching up.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization representing licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters in the province. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.

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