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Provincial Loan Program Secures Independent Future for Owner-Operator Fishery

May 24, 2024

St. John’s, NL –  The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) is pleased to share the Provincial Government’s announcement today regarding a significant investment by the Innovation and Business Investment Corporation (IBIC). A $15 million investment will launch the new Harvester Enterprise Loan Program, an enhancement of the existing Fisheries Loan Guarantee Program, aimed at expanding support for independent fish harvesters and setting the independent fishery up for continued sustainability.

“Giving fish harvesters the infrastructure to financially weather the ups and downs of the economy and get them out of the control of companies is essential to the long-term success of the industry,” says FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty. “Today’s announcement is a welcome support for independent fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador, and our Union applauds the Provincial Government for taking this much needed step. It’s imperative that the young harvesters of this industry have access to funding thus avoiding the draconian, financial clutches of NL fish  merchants, ” Pretty says.

“Today is a historic day for our Union and the industry in continuing to push back on the predatory behavior of processing companies functioning as banks by giving financial support to enterprise owners in exchange for control of the harvesting sector,” Pretty says.

This enhanced initiative, building on the existing Fisheries Loan Guarantee Program, incorporates feedback from stakeholders to better meet the needs of fish harvesters. Key enhancements include increased maximum guarantee thresholds, as well as the introduction of down-payment loans and interest payment rebates designed to support eligible activities.

Key components of the new program are:

·           $10 million allocated for down-payment assistance, enabling harvesters to secure loans from financial institutions.

·           $5 million designated for interest payment support.

The newly enhanced program will begin accepting applications in early July. At that time, updated program guidelines and application instructions will be provided, and information sessions will be organized to ensure all stakeholders are well-informed.

Under the Harvester Enterprise Loan Program, loan guarantees and additional supports will be available to assist fish harvesters in obtaining financing for:

1.         Vessel-related activities such as construction, purchase, or refit.

2.         Combining of enterprises and license acquisitions.

3.         Refinancing loans owed to fish processors for fixed assets and/or license acquisitions.

4.         Refinancing previous loans obtained from chartered banks for vessel-related purposes and fish license acquisitions.

“Independent fish harvesters are pleased to see the Provincial Government take important steps this year that will see tangible effects on their continued economic sustainability. From opening up to outside buyers and increasing competition, this financial support will go a long way to ensuring harvesters do not need to remain under the financial control of companies,” Pretty concludes.

The Honourable Elvis Loveless, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, and Agriculture, alongside Greg Pretty, President of FFAW-Unifor, will address the media today, Friday, May 24, at 10:00 a.m. outside the House of Assembly to discuss the implications and benefits of the new program.