The Scottish seafood sector is to receive an initial package of more than £5 million in financial support to assist businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Funding will be offered to over 650 seafood fishing companies, many of which have lost livelihoods with the collapse of export and hospitality markets for Scottish delicacies such as langoustine, prawns and crab.
An initial payment of 50% of two months’ average earnings will be made to owners of all full-time Scottish registered fishing vessels of 12 metres length and under – the vast majority of which are in the creel and dive sectors, many of whom operate in remote and island communities.
Support is also being developed for the onshore processing industry – one of the largest employers in Scotland’s coastal communities – and others in the shellfish growing sector which is being affected by the loss of trade and markets.
‘The economic impact of COVID-19 is global, and is reaching into the heart of our fragile coastal communities. I have spent the last week listening to and liaising with our fishing industry, and there are many who have lost their livelihoods with little prospect of an early recovery. The need for action is immediate,’ said Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing.
‘I am therefore announcing an initial package of support, and Scottish Government officials are working as hard as possible to get this money out of the door as fast as we can. We recognise that more needs to be done, particularly to try and create some alternative markets – at least in the short-term. I will be discussing with retailers how that might be achieved, and I would also encourage the public to play their part by buying Scottish seafood if they can. By working together we can all play a part in securing the immediate future of some of the key contributors to Scotland’s food and drink success.’
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has welcomed the funding package for smaller vessels.
‘The markets that these boats sold into have largely disappeared due to the Covid-19 pandemic, depriving many fishermen of their livelihoods almost overnight,’ said SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald.
‘The Scottish Government’s announcement of this initial financial support is therefore a very positive and much-needed development. It is clear however from the regular reports we are receiving from our members that other markets, particularly for shellfish, have evaporated, and the whitefish market has contracted rapidly as a result of the pandemic.’
She commented that SFF will continue to make the case or similar support for other parts of the fleet that are at imminent risk of hardship.
‘Both the Scottish and UK governments are reacting daily and hourly to a fast-changing situation that is impacting on individuals and business right across the economy,’ Elspeth Macdonald said.
‘Continued supply and production of foodstuffs is clearly a high priority and we hope that means can be found to keep supply lines open for nutritious, high-protein seafood during this unprecedented crisis.’