YARMOUTH, N.S. – The fishery industry in Nova Scotia is worth an estimated $2 billion annually and one important area that updated Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board regulations are putting a high value on is younger fishermen and new entrants.
The updated regulations were announced in Yarmouth on Dec. 6 and include such things as reduced loan approval wait times and increasing lending limits from $1 million to $5 million.
The goal is to expand options and to eliminate financial barriers that have prevented people – particularly younger fishermen – from taking a risk in seeking big loans to get into the sector and/or improve their enterprises.
As fishermen age, you need younger fishermen to enter the sector for its continued success. However in the past this has been easier said than done.
“A lot of the other lenders and the banks so often shy away from young fishermen because they don’t have the history in the industry and they don’t have the collateral and they won’t fund fishermen,” said Denny Morrow, chair of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board.
“Over the coming months we will be developing some policies to implement these regulations for the processing sector, for boat builders and also for aquaculture businesses in the province,” he said. “But the real thrust of this is to provide better financing, better products, faster turn-around times, better service to the fishermen who are the core clients for the loan board.”
On behalf of the province’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell, Zach Churchill, Yarmouth’s MLA and the province’s Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, made the announcement about the updated regulations amid a backdrop of the W. Laurence Sweeney Fisheries Museum in Yarmouth, which takes visitors on a tour of the fishing past. Churchill called the announced changes good for the fishing industry’s future.
“The cap for lending is moving from $1 million to $5 million. We now will have options for long-term loans. The reduced interest rates on term loans will be dropped by about a percentage point, on average, which has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of dollars for people who take loans out to do this,” he said. “We're increasing to a 30-year limit, from a 20-year limit, which will make the loans more affordable. And we’re reducing service fees, particularly on the licence alone, so this can help achieve a savings of approximately $4,000, on average, for those folks who take advantage of this.”
The loan board assists fishermen in purchasing licences and accessing financing to build/modify boats and to purchase new equipment.
Churchill noted the loan board will be expanding financing options to other parts of the sector, including seafood processing, boat building and aquaculture.
He also said for years members of the fishing industry have been pushing hard for changes to make things easier for fishermen.
“(Fisherman) Bernie Berry (of the Coldwater Lobster Association) approached me before the last election and told me what they were pushing for and the idea made so much practical sense I even took the risk myself and put it in my campaign literature,” Churchill said, saying these changes were needed for the industry – which is important to the economy of the province.
In his comments, Morrow pointed to how the lobster industry alone in Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne counties in southwestern Nova Scotia have infused anywhere from $100 million to $200 million into the local and provincial economy during the month of December in past years.
“This is in a month where we have no tourism and when the construction industry is down,” Morrow said.
Heather Mulock, of the Coldwater Lobster Association and who spoke on the industry’s behalf at the announcement, said fishermen and the association are really pleased with the loan board changes. She said having a loan board location in southwestern Nova Scotia – there is an office in Yarmouth at Harbourfront Place, 3 Lovitt Street – has been good and important for the industry. Fishermen are constantly looking at what financing options exist, she said.
Mulock noted it was recently pointed out that as of March 2018 there was $127 million in loans on the books of the loan board. Typically the board lends between $35 million and $40 million per year.
“With the changes that have been (announced) here today I think that number is going to be much higher next year,” she said, saying the new regulations will help everyone, particularly new entrants, in accessing financing. This bodes well for the betterment of the industry and the province, she said.
QUICK GLANCE: THE CHANGES:
• reduced loan approval wait times through increasing lending limits from $1 million to $5 million
• expanded financing to include loans for quota and other fishing and seafood related activities
• reduced interest rates
• open and closed specific term loans, variable interest rates and an increased amortization term from 20 to 30 years
• loan prepayment