Government announce £10 million fund to help fishing industry through coronavirus

The Government has announced a £10 million fund to support the fishing and aquaculture industries during the coronavirus outbreak.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 9:32 am
Updated Friday, 17th April 2020, 9:41 am

More than 1,000 businesses in England will receive direct cash grants through a fisheries support scheme announced today by Environment Secretary George Eustice and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay.

In the latest step to protect businesses affected by coronavirus, plans unveiled today mean that 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.

Fishermen do some maintenance during lockdown. Picture: JPI Media/ Tony Johnson

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.

Will Jenkinson, a fisherman based out of Scarborough, explained that since the start of the outbreak there had been 'no point in going to sea'.

He said: "There's no point unless you can sell locally. No one is ordering, buyers can't sell it.

"The majority of our catch goes to France, China and Spain and there's nowhere to get rid of it at the moment.

Scarborough Harbour. Picture: JPI Media/ Marisa Cashill

"The market is stopping us, if there was a demand I'd be there now.

"I've been to sea to check my pots but I still have to pay for the bait and the fuel and struggle to get rid of anything I have."

Will said that not enough people in the UK that eat seafood to be able to sell locally and make a profit.

He said: "If you could sell locally to people it would help but not enough people are interested."

Because the majority of fish caught in the UK is usually destined for export, the English fishing fleet has been hit by the closure of traditional export markets and the reduction in demand from the hospitality sector.

The new support scheme announced today – which will run for up to three months – takes action 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.

For the catching sector, the fund will be open to under-24m vessel owners 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.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will administer the fund, contacting eligible registered owners and licence holders directly in stages with details of how to apply, starting on Monday April 20 through to early May and payments will be made for up to three months.

Further announcements about specific support for the aquaculture industry will be made in due course.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “This £10 million scheme will provide a lifeline for more than 1,000 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.

“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.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay MP said: “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.

“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.”

Tom McCormack, Chief Executive of the Marine Management Organisation, said: “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."