The NFFO, SFF and The Fishermen’s Mission has issued a joint press release on the effects the COVID-19 crisis is having on those in the industry
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), along with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and The Fishermen’s Mission has issued a joint statement on how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted those working in the industry.
In their press release they say that the government, the national fishing federations and the Fishermen’s Mission share a commitment to the whole fishing industry. This means not only the fishing businesses that make up the sector – but also the crews who work on the vessels as owner/operators, self-employed share-fishermen, or fishermen under employment contracts.
Financial support measures from governments across the UK have been significant in scale and delivered with a rapidity and efficiency that has matched the urgency of the moment. Of necessity, these schemes have been broad-brush, including in the case of the fishing industry, where stand-alone schemes to cover unavoidable business costs were agreed by the Treasury and devolved administrations. Inevitably, some fishermen have fallen through the gaps.
The period of extreme emergency is slowly receding, although there is a risk of a second wave of infections, as lockdown measures are relaxed. Markets are tentatively returning but not in all areas. Some will take a long time to fully recover. Having survived the last few difficult months, the focus is now on how to get through the slow and possibly prolonged recovery period. This at a time when financial resilience for businesses and crew will be low. With no reserves put aside, large parts of the industry are highly vulnerable. The challenges of debt management as Government support schemes end will affect many fishermen and their families.
Identified areas of risk
There have been those who have fallen through the gaps in the support measures. Whether this is because of personal circumstances, or the criteria used to frame the different support schemes, it is important that these people are not left behind.
We, collectively feel a responsibility to:
- Identify those at risk from the loss of their business and/or personal difficulties.
- Analyse the nature of the difficulties they are now facing.
- Develop and provide adequate solutions, that will help fishermen who are struggling through this unprecedented and challenging time.
An array of support agencies, including government, private and charitable already exist. Their role is to support those in the fishing sector who are facing genuine difficulties.
Navigating these different agencies to find the right kind of support can, however, be daunting. There is now an urgent need for a single point of contact to be established so that fishermen can be directed to the support appropriate to each individual case.
The Fishermen’s Mission has agreed to operate a ‘one-stop shop’ for all matters relating to welfare and the wellbeing of both active and retired fishermen and their families. Their contact information is: Freephone 0800 6341020 or landline 01489 566910; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or via their website: www.fishermensmission.org.uk by using the Need Help button. The Fishermen’s Mission also has a strong presence on Twitter @thefishmish and Facebook Fishermen’s Mission where they can receive direct messages. It is our hope that the Fishermen’s Mission become the first point of contact for all fishermen when they need this kind of support and that this information is widely available to them.
Tough Months Ahead
We anticipate that the next few months will be tough. There is both economic and financial uncertainty, as well as fear and concern about a second wave, should the pandemic return in force. In these difficult conditions, it is our collective intention to ensure fishermen (and their families) are guided to available sources of support where and when it is needed. If, in order for this to happen, we need to make further government intervention, we will not hesitate to make that case. Our intention, with this initiative, is to ensure as far as possible, that appropriate assistance is available to everyone who need it and to ensure that we return to being the strong, resilient, industry we were before this crisis and that we can be again.
Barrie Deas CE said:
“We know that the Covid-19 virus and subsequent lockdown has stripped resilience out of many parts of our industry. The very least we can do is provide an adequate safety-net for those who find themselves in difficulty. Having a single contact point will, we hope, ease access to the support systems that are available.”
Elspeth Macdonald, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said:
“This has been an extremely difficult time for many in our industry, and indeed continues to be so for some, as the recovery from the Covid lockdowns slowly takes shape. It is important that fishermen can readily access the help and advice that they need over the weeks and months ahead, and this initiative will help to do that.”
David Dickens, Chief Executive of the Fishermen’s Mission commented:
“This has been one of the busiest times in history of the work of the Fishermen’s Mission. We have worked closely, for many years, with the NFFO and SFF and it is vital that all fishermen understand that we are here to help with any issues that they may be facing. We have port staff covering the whole of the UK coastline and while currently we may all be working from home – we are still able to provide an extremely effective service. We welcome this initiative and statement as a declaration of our commitment to continue to support our fishermen and their families.”
The Fishermen’s Mission is the national charity that provides practical, financial and welfare support to both active and retired fishermen as well as their families. A Christian charity that works around the whole of the UK coastline helping anyone who works on a UK fishing boat or works in the water in the aquaculture sector. Since the beginning of the Covid 19 restrictions the Fishermen’s Mission has accessed grants totalling more than £250K to assist fishermen and their families as well as providing emotional support and arranging for other services to assist where and when necessary.