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'You can’t harvest lobster from inside your house,' Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. 'That leaves you trying to figure out how to either space people out on a fishing boat or cancel your operations' – lobster boats seen here in Woods Harbour, on Nova Scotia's South Shore, on Nov. 21, 2019.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Fish harvesters will receive nearly $470-million in federal assistance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday as he called on Canadian consumers to support the industry.

During his daily news briefing, Mr. Trudeau said the federal government is creating a fish harvesters benefit, including support to cover up to 75 per cent cent of losses of up to $10,000 for those who expect a 25-per-cent drop in income.

Many Canadians have faced very challenging situations and choices over the past two months, he said, adding that the fisheries industry has endured unique challenges.

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“You can’t harvest lobster from inside your house,” Mr. Trudeau said. "That leaves you trying to figure out how to either space people out on a fishing boat or cancel your operations.

Prices and demand have gone down, putting financial pressure on fish harvesters and their families, he added, as he called on consumers to buy seafood products to support the industry.

Mr. Trudeau also said Thursday that Ottawa is also introducing non-repayable grants of up to $10,000 for fish harvesters who own their own businesses.

Employment Insurance rules would be changed so fish harvesters can apply for EI benefits based on their earning from previous years, he said.

Mel Arnold, the Conservative critic for Fisheries, said Thursday the Liberal government has let Canada’s fish and seafood sectors down for the past two months, adding the announcement fails to provide clarity that fish and seafood harvesters need, including when they can apply for these benefits.

“Market uncertainty continues to be a major concern, impacting harvesters across the country,” he said.

He also stressed the need for Ottawa to ensure new and traditional export markets are secured. “Canada’s fish and seafood sectors are essential contributors to our national food security and are key economic drivers in coastal communities,” he said.

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NDP Fisheries critic Gord Johns called Thursday’s announcement long overdue for independent fish harvesters, adding that extending EI and making business loans available to fish harvesters has been a request his party has made for weeks.

“We're glad the government has finally recognized these as practical solutions but the government needs to do more to help ease the anxiety that fishers and harvesters are feeling,” he said.​

“As it is, the loan program will not be sufficient for most harvesters. It must be raised significantly to reflect the reality that fishers on all coasts are facing.”

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