The Kilkeel fleet are looking to get back to fishing full-time. Photo: Oliver McBride

Fishing boats in Kilkeel are gradually returning to sea after seven weeks of tie-up as the Northern Ireland fishing industry gradually look to get back on track.

The majority of the Northern Ireland fleet have been in harbour due to the COVID-19 lockdown and a return to fishing is now on the cards since restrictions have been eased as of last Monday.

Returning to fishing is not all that easy as Sea Source – Anifpo describes it: “Having been tied up for seven plus weeks, it’s just not as simple as going out, putting your nets in the water and ‘fillin ur boots’ with prawns or fish. The fleet has to search or hunt for their catch.”

The Kilkeel boats and other fishing vessels in the Northern Ireland fleet are spread out from the Clyde, to the Whitehaven grounds and in the western Irish Sea in search of prosperous grounds.

Sea Source – Anifpo said “The men are working hard. We hope after such a long time ashore they are well rewarded.”

On 3 April DAERA Fisheries Minister, Edwin Poots has announced a substantial £1.5m support package for Northern Ireland’s fishing industry.

The financial scheme was designed to help the seafood industry In Northern Ireland through the COVID-19 pandemic after the collapse of the European, Asian and domestic fish markets made it uneconomical for the fleet to continue fishing. Fishing was further hampered by coronavirus protocols such as social-distancing and lockdown.

The assistance was originally set for three months with a maximum amount of total funding per ‘undertaking’ capped at around £104,000 and it was designed to be delivered via monthly payments varying with vessel size with the maximum payment being made at £4,550 per month for fishing vessels of 15 metres and over.

Any vessels that remained fishing during the lockdown have been landing their catches for the local market and Sea Source has been offering a home delivery service to customers along with offering a discount to NHS staff who purchase from them.

Recently there has been some movement on the Chinese brown crab market but transportation to China remained an issue due to COVID-19 restrictions in countries enroute.

Fishermen in Northern Ireland will be hoping that with the easing of restrictions in some mainland Europe countries, fish exporters will be looking to start buying again.

Fishing Boats in Kilkeel get back to Sea after Seven Week Tie-Up

by editor time to read: 6 min