CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI -- A new debt mediation service for fishers affected by declining landings in the Northumberland Strait is being established. The announcement was made today by Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Jim Bagnall. The new service will assist fishers in Lobster Fishing Areas 25 and 26A with the costs of professional services to review and analyze their financial situation and develop a plan to deal with it.

“This service will be of valuable assistance to those fishers and their families who are faced with significant financial issues because of various forms of debt due to high capital and operating costs and lower revenues from fishing,” said Mr. Bagnall. “It is hoped that the service will enable some fishers to restructure their finances and return to sustainability in the fishery.”

Mr. Bagnall said the new service is in response to a recommendation in the recent report on the financial conditions being experienced by some fishers in the Northumberland Strait. The report was conducted by the accounting firm Grant Thornton. It found that those fishers in greatest difficulty are those who have made major capital investments in recent years. It said there will be an unavoidable number of fishers who cannot meet their debt obligations, but the vast majority can be returned to sustainability with the application of sound recovery plans.

“The goals of this and other efforts being undertaken are to bring about a greater degree of stability to the Northumberland Strait fishery,” said Mr. Bagnall. “We will continue to pursue further actions in cooperation with the federal and other provincial governments and the industry to renew the fishery in a sustainable fashion.”

The minister said that debt mediation service is voluntary, with no initial cost to fishers. He said he is confident that both fishers and lenders will welcome this new service as a way of reaching a resolution to a number of outstanding financial issues. Details of the program are being finalized and will be available to fishers in the near future.

There are more than 650 fishers from Prince Edward Island in the two lobster fishing areas that make up the Northumberland Strait fishery.

For additional information contact: Barry