Storm Fiona batters Canada’s eastern fishery, farms

FILE PHOTO: Structures float in the water in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona in Rose Blanche, Newfoundland, Canada September 25, 2022. REUTERS/John Morris/File Photo

By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Powerful storm Fiona slammed into Canada’s eastern fishing and farm industries over the weekend, smashing wharves, food processing plants and barns that will take months to repair.

One of the worst storms Canada has ever faced left more than one-third of customers in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia without power, swept homes into the sea and left one person dead.

Fishing is a key industry in Canada’s Atlantic provinces, which produce some of the world’s largest lobster exports.

Fiona destroyed some harbours on Prince Edward Island (PEI), a province on Canada’s east coast, and scattered lobster traps for miles, leaving a long clean-up ahead, said Allan MacQuarrie, a director of the PEI Fishermen’s Association.

“I’m scared to know what it’s going to look like, to be honest with you,” said MacQuarrie, who was cleaning up toppled trees at his home and had not yet checked his own crab traps.

“I’ll know tomorrow and you’ll hear me swearing in Saskatchewan.”

FIONA’S IMPACT ON FISH AND SEAFOOD PROCESSING

Osborne Burke, general manager of the Victoria Co-op Fisheries in Neils Harbour, Nova Scotia, told news outlet CBC that the plant suffered “horrendous” damage, and several 40-foot sea containers full of frozen fish were “thrown around like dominoes.”

He said no one was seriously hurt, but repairs will cost more than C$1 million ($727,537).

Canada’s lobster industry was spared worse damage because fishing is minimal at this time of year, said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada industry group. Fishers are planning to seek government approval to extend the season in certain areas to make up for lost time, he said.

National fishing and seafood accounted for C$7.6 billion ($5.52 billion) in Canadian gross domestic product in 2018, according to a 2021 government report.

FIONA HAMMERS THE FARM SECTOR

Many PEI dairy farmers lost power, shutting down milking systems that run on electricity, said Donald Killorn, executive director of PEI Federation of Agriculture.

The storm disrupted early harvesting of potatoes and other crops, he said. PEI, the smallest province, produced one-fifth of Canada’s potatoes last year, according to Statistics Canada, much of which it exports to the United States.

“We see huge destruction in our barns and our storage facilities,” Killorn said. “Damage to infrastructure is significant, it’s widespread and it’s catastrophic.”

($1 = 1.3745 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Josie Kao)

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