Frustration is mounting across those parts of the fishing industry impacted by the coronavirus, says the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO).
The NFFO fears that many in the industry could fall through the gaps in the financial support offered by the UK Government.
NFFO Chief Executive, Barrie Deas said, “We know that the case has been made to Treasury for a support package for the fishing industry. We also know that this is being discussed at the highest levels within government – but the delay in making an announcement as we head into a holiday weekend is creating a profound sense of frustration, not to say despair.”
The announcement on support for the self-employed will be of help to crew engaged as share-fishermen but there is nothing for fishing businesses which face significant ongoing fixed costs but have no, or greatly reduced, income to cover those outlays. There is a real danger that many will not be able to keep their heads above water until this health emergency passes.
Small businesses in the hospitality sector have been given access to grants up to £10,000 but for the most part, fishing vessels, who in many cases supply those restaurants are not eligible for these grants as eligibility is related to paying business rates.
“There is a clear gap in the safety-net provisions and fishing businesses are being allowed to fall through it. This has been well understood within Defra and the MMO. The point has been made repeatedly during several conference calls that have taken the place of face-to-face meetings. Landing statistics, market activity and price information all confirm that scale of the collapse in markets caused by lockdown measures.”
The administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, have already announced support packages and we expect a scheme for fishermen in Wales to be announced soon. Unless we hear from the Treasury soon, we will be forced to the conclusion that fishermen outside the devolved administrations count for less than their colleagues over the border. This cannot be allowed to stand.