The Government is working closely with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and provinces in response to the pandemic and the needs of the fish and seafood sector.
Temporary foreign workers coming to Canada, at this time, are typically filling positions in industries that are critically important to Canada’s economy and food security, including in seafood processing. Measures are in place to ensure that those who arrive remain in quarantine for 14 days following arrival, and isolate and receive medical attention should they fall ill.
The Government is working with our provincial counterparts and the seafood processing industry to ensure that those provinces that are seeking temporary foreign workers receive them.
Temporary foreign workers are an important source of labour for our fisheries processing industry. The Government continues to process work permit applications for fish and seafood workers as a priority, given the needs of this industry.
While COVID-19 has disrupted processing networks, applicants outside Canada can continue to submit work permit applications. Any person who is outside Canada at the time of application must apply online and applications are triaged to offices where there is processing capacity.
Opening of the lobster fishing season
The opening of the lobster fishing season is the purview of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. On April 22, 2020, it was announced that the opening of the lobster fishing season in northern New Brunswick and western Prince Edward Island would be delayed by two weeks to May 15, 2020.
The May 15 start date applies to lobster fishing areas 23, 24, 26A and 26B — which includes the areas on the coast of northern New Brunswick, the north shore of Prince Edward Island, the western coast of Cape Breton, as well as part of the Northumberland Strait.
Supporting facts and figures
In 2019, IRCC issued over 2,100 work permits to fish and seafood plant workers across Canada. Most of these workers come to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which is led by Employment and Social Development Canada.
Nearly half (48%) of all workers were destined to New Brunswick, with remainder destined to Prince Edward Island (25%), Nova Scotia (17%), Quebec (6%), Newfoundland (3%) and British Columbia (1%).
In 2019, approximately half of all fish and seafood plant workers came from Mexico, with other top source countries including the Philippines, Jamaica, and China. Stakeholders have informally told the Department that they have looked to alternate source countries this year where it was known in advance that travel restrictions may pose a problem for the arrival of workers.
New Brunswick Travel Ban and Seafood Workers
On April 28, 2020, the Premier of New Brunswick announced a ban on the entry of temporary foreign workers. IRCC has paused all New Brunswick-destined work permit applications given the travel restrictions.
IRCC has been sending notifications to temporary foreign workers with updates on measures relating to working in Canada throughout the pandemic. The notification has been updated to advise clients to check provincial websites before traveling to confirm if there are any additional restrictions.
A number of fish and seafood workers were already present in New Brunswick at the time of the provincial travel ban taking effect. As of May 7, 2020, there were approximately 240 foreign workers in seafood processing occupations with valid work permits for New Brunswick employers. The travel ban does not impact these workers.
Recent Government Announcement to Support the Seafood Industry
On April 25, 2020, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced $62.5 million of new assistance to the fish and seafood processing sector. This new Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund will help businesses:
access short-term financing to pay for maintenance and inventory costs;
add storage capacity for unsold product;
comply with new health and safety measures for workers;
support new manufacturing/automated technologies to improve productivity and quality of finished seafood products; and,
adapt products to respond to changing requirements and new market demands.
This investment will help ensure the resilience of the food system by allowing Canada’s fish and seafood processing sector to safely and efficiently process, store, package, and distribute healthy, high-quality products, sourced from our fish harvesters and aquaculture operators, onto the plates of Canadians.
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