The UK government has followed the lead of the devolved Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations by announcing a £10 million support package for fishing and aquaculture sectors in England.
‘This scheme will provide a lifeline for more than 1000 fishing businesses so they can continue to maintain and operate their boats during this challenging time, which has seen falling prices and lack of demand for fish from the restaurant industry,’ said Environment Secretary George Eustice as the scheme was announced.
‘We are continuing to work closely with the fishing and aquaculture industry to ensure that they are supported and can get back to their vital role of providing fish for the table while contributing to the economy of many of our coastal communities.’
Up to £9 million will be available for grants to eligible fishing and aquaculture businesses.
A further £1 million will be made available to support projects to assist fishermen to sell their catch in their local communities. This money will help fishing businesses find new ways to market and sell their catch while traditional markets are restricted, not only supporting the sector but also the local communities that depend on the industry.
Because the majority of fish they catch is usually destined for export, the English fishing fleet which catches fish stocks such as hake, scallops and crab, has been hit by the closure of traditional export markets and the reduction in demand from the hospitality sector.
‘Fishing is at the heart of many of England’s coastal communities – providing local jobs as well as valued produce to their communities and through exports around the world,’ commented Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay.
‘Given the loss of trade particularly to restaurants as a result of Covid-19, this support will help fishing businesses weather the current challenges they face, and facilitate new growth in retail markets through innovative local distribution.’
The support scheme, which will run for up to three months, is designed to meet the immediate needs of the industry by helping English fishing and aquaculture businesses with their fixed costs such as such as insurance, equipment hire and port costs.
The measures will support English industry, in particular smaller fisherman, during this challenging time and follow an unprecedented package of financial support already announced for small businesses.
The fund will be open to owners of under-24m vessel with fishing licences registered in England who recorded sales of £10,000 or more in 2019.
Grants will be made to help cover fixed business costs. For the catching sector this will be calculated from the average business costs for the size of the vessel, as surveyed by the industry annually.
‘We’ve continued to stay closely engaged with the fishing industry and are very much aware of the difficulties many fishing businesses have been facing with the downturn in markets for fish and shellfish. We absolutely acknowledge the importance of our fishing industries and share concerns about these current impacts – it is our problem too,’ said MMO Chief Executive Tom McCormack.
‘The data we collect from the fishing industry has proved timely and incredibly valuable in helping to quickly evidence the current situation and to target where financial support is most needed. We will be reviewing as we go, and will continue to engage with and listen to industry to ensure we’re supporting our fishing industry in the right ways.’