After Fiona, seafood processors won't be able to keep up with demand

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After Fiona, seafood processors will not be able to meet demand

Workers and molds at the Aqua Farms factory in Kensington, Prince Edward Island, on October 21, 2022.

Seafood processors in Prince Edward Island are warning that it will be difficult for them to meet demand for their products after Hurricane Fiona.

The storm hit the island hard on September 24.

Jerry Gavin, director of the Prince Edward Island Seafood Processors Association, says the market for oysters and mussels was strong this year. Unfortunately, he adds, products ready to be marketed and spat were lost during the bad weather. Infrastructure, including some factories, suffered damage.

Everything was going so well for mussels and oysters. It's very unfortunate that Fiona hit us like that, regrets Jerry Gavin.

The loss of mussel and oyster spat complicates matters beyond this year. The last thing we want is to put too many oysters and mussels on the market now and have nothing in two years. It's a difficult balance to achieve. It will be a challenge, said Jerry Gavin.

Mr. Gavin and other industry players spoke to the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Health and Social Development on Friday.

According to its preliminary estimates, members of the Seafood Processors Association believe their losses will amount to $70 million.

Jerry Gavin, Director of the Prince Edward Island Seafood Processors Association, testified before a parliamentary committee in Charlottetown, October 21, 2022.

Jeff Malloy, CEO of Acadian Supreme, explains that he lost 40,000 pounds of lobster because the place where it was stored was without electricity because of Fiona. There was a generator, but it wasn't enough to prevent a huge loss.

Jerry Gavin doesn't believe the $300 million in federal assistance paying through its Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) will be sufficient for damages of this magnitude.

A significant amount of the losses are uninsurable, due to the storm surge caused by Fiona. Jerry Gavin says the association he leads would like an insurance program to exist for aquaculture, similar to the one farmers benefit from.

Farmers to whom I speaks say it has a big positive impact for them, he observed.

Seafood processing plants are near water and are therefore particularly subject to extreme weather events. Jerry Gavin says industry players are thinking about ways to make their infrastructure less vulnerable.

He also wonders how to get power back on faster after such inclement weather. He says in the same breath that all Prince Edward Islanders are wondering – some had to wait up to three weeks to get power after Fiona.

With information from CBC

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