The Fisheries section of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has issued a letter to those involved in the Northern Ireland fishing offering financial supports during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter comes as the crisis deepens and the UK Government has introduced a ‘lockdown’ on citizens in the UK & Northern Ireland. Across the board, whitefish and shellfish markets have collapsed at home and abroad due to the closure of trade routes to mainland Europe and to the east Asian countries severely hit by the corona-virus.
Most supermarkets chains have stopped selling fresh fish in store. Pubs, gastropubs and restaurants have been forced to close their doors to the public, leaving only takeaways open to the consumer. This has killed-off the demand for fish and with fish prices falling, it has become uneconomical for fishing vessels to go sea.
As with most of the UK, fishermen in Northern Ireland are self-employed share-fishermen. When the boats are tied-up they have no income. Therefore, the UK Government has passed an financial support package that self-employed share-fishermen can apply for. You can make your application by clicking here.
From DAERA Fisheries
Dear Fisheries Stakeholder,
We understand that COVID-19 is continuing to put pressure on all parts of the fishing industry. We are considering a range of measures to support the industry, and below is an update of the support measures that are currently in place.
Government financial support package
In response to feedback we have pulled together a summary explaining which of the government support measures are currently available to the seafood industry along with FAQs.
Information about all the government support available can be accessed through the new Coronavirus Business Support website which was launched on Monday 23 March. It is designed to help businesses find the right support, advice and information to assist with the impact of Coronavirus.
The UK Government announced a new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
They will pay self-employed people, who have been adversely affected by the Coronavirus, a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month. The scheme will be open for at least three months, backdated to 1 March.
If you’re eligible, HMRC will contact you directly, ask you to fill out a simple online form, then pay the grant straight into your bank account.
For small and medium sized businesses, the new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is now open for applications.
Larger firms can also speak to their lenders to access The Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
Specific information for businesses and employers in Northern Ireland is also available.
Sector specific support
DAERA is considering policy interventions which could ease the pressure and support you through this crisis and we will ensure you are kept up to date on progress.
Guidance for UK businesses trading internationally
The UK Government has published updated guidance on the support that is available for businesses that export or deliver goods and services abroad and have been impacted by coronavirus, for example through assistance with customs authorities to ensure smooth clearance of products and financial support for businesses trading internationally.
Food production classed as key workers
Schools, and all childcare providers, have been asked by the Government to continue to provide care for children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response, in line with guidance published on 19 March. This comprises people involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, including the seafood industry.
Following the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Monday 23 March, the Government has published updated guidance for businesses in light of further social distancing measures, including the list of businesses and premises that must now be shut, and the measures that those retail and public premises that remain open must take to ensure social distancing. Where it is not possible to work from home people may continue to travel to work where necessary, but are advised to follow social distancing guidelines where that is possible.
Aquaculture – Movement of live fish
As a result of the Government’s requirement to keep movements to a minimum, we have received a number of queries about whether movements of live fish from fish farms can continue.
Where the movement of fish is essential to support the food chain, or for fish welfare reasons, they can continue.
The requirements on social distancing mean you should not be leaving your house in order to go fishing recreationally.
Marine and Fisheries Division
Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group