Fishing gear stored outside is not eligible for insurance.
Although he still had about 240 traps that were in the water the day the fire swept through his home community, DeMings said he has been unable to head back out on the water since then.
“The wildfire impacted my mental stability,” said DeMings from his new home in a house that used to belong to his grandmother, just two minutes down the road from the wharf he fishes from in Gunning Cove. “For the past six months I’ve been putting on a happy face and doing what I had to do, but I knew that I didn’t have the mental ability to fish.”
‘Busiest time of the season’
The provincial government announced late last week it’s offering up to $200,000 for uninsurable belongings and that will help offset what he’s had to pay to replace lost gear.
“The 200,000 is good,” DeMings told CBC News. “It’s going to be great.”
But he’s not sure when he’ll have the time to apply.
“I don’t know what the criteria is going to be,” he said. “I haven’t really looked at the application process, but they’re releasing it four days before we start into the busiest time of the season.”
“It’s not a great time of year to be worrying about applying for something through the government right now.”
Dan Fleck agreed the timing was bad. The executive director of Brazil Rock Lobster Association, which represents fishermen from Eastern Passage to Digby, has been lobbying the provincial and federal governments for months for some sort of relief program.
“It would have been much nicer if it would have been three or four months ago so they could have been better prepared to relieve this financial burden that they’re under right now,” said Fleck, who learned of the program after a call from CBC News on Friday.
Fleck spent the weekend touching based with some of the 16 fishermen most affected by the fire.
“They are happy, they are happy to know it’s coming,” said Fleck. “It will be a financial reprieve from a tremendous loss of anywhere from a couple of $100,000 down to $10,000 of their fishing gear — lobster traps, bait barrels, halibut gear, swordfish gear, tuna gear, herring gill nets, all of the related fishing gear for the species that are fished here in southwest Nova Scotia.”
‘It’s meant to get people going again’
Late last Friday afternoon, John Lohr, minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, confirmed to CBC News fishermen would be among those eligible for up to $200,000 in wildfire aid.
“Gear is generally speaking, not insurable,” said Lohr. “Some of this gear onshore was burned by the fire so this is up to $200,000 of that that this would cover.”
“It’s intended to help people get back on their feet and generally speaking it would do that, but it doesn’t cover your cottage or a deck,” said Lohr. “It’s meant to get people going again.”
“It’s just meant to be a helping hand to get them on their feet again in business.”
According to information posted on the application website, residential property owners qualify if,
the damage occurred during the wildfires in Halifax Regional Municipality, Shelburne County and Yarmouth County on 27 May to 11 June 2023.
they don’t have insurance to cover all their losses.
the property is their primary residence.
Tenants can apply for financial assistance under roughly the same conditions but there are income cutoffs. Couples must have a combined income of less than $45,000 a year in the Halifax Regional Municipality and less than $52,500 if they live outside the capital region.
Businesses must not earn more than $2 million a year to qualify.
Non-profit groups may also qualify but only if they are deemed to be an “organization [that] operates a facility in the community’s interest and there is unrestricted public access to the facility.”
Individuals, businesses or organizations must apply by January 31, 2024.
Although DeMings is grateful to recoup some of his losses, he said he and other fishermen lost more than gear as a result of the wildfires. He said he and others lost revenue they would have made fishing if they had their gear and the ability to fish.
“I have a friend that missed out his first trip tuna fishing and lost a week of lobster fishing,” said DeMings. “That’s equivalent to hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
“A lot of people just think, ‘Oh they just lost their gear, crying about their gear,’ but you know a lot of people lost fishing time down here, too, and time away from their businesses.”