The Isle of Man seafood industry will be welcoming the news that the Tynwald Parliament has approved a scheme to help to help fishers and processors through the current COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking on air at midday today at the Isle of Man Government coronavirus update, Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture told listeners that they acknowledge and support their fishing fleet through these difficult times.
Minister Boot said “On Friday, Tynwald approved a comprehensive support package for our fishing industry which had been badly affected by low stock levels over the last year and in particular this season by bad weather over the winter period.
“These are small business centres based on Manx registered boats that have had other problems compounded by the collapse of their European and Far Eastern markets. They are all reliant on a few processors on the island and it was obvious that without intervention, if we lost either side of the sector, they would not be in a position to take advantage of any recovery when the crisis abates.
“Nor would we be able to rely on them to step up local supply to ensure we have plenty of food to eat so we are literally trying to keep our fleet afloat. Some fishers will continue to supply the local market having diversified but they will be ready to take advantage of a market recovery in due course.”
The seafood sector, including processing, is worth an estimated £20m a year on the Isle of Man with one of their main exports being scallops.
On announcing details of the financial supports Minister Boot said ‘We are living in unprecedented times and as such our response must be quick and meaningful.
“This support will help the Manx fishing fleet and many local seafood businesses to weather this difficult storm and prevent lasting damage to the industry for the benefit of the Isle of Man people.”
The grant scheme will make more than £370,000 available over a twelve-week period, with all other existing support schemes continuing as normal.
Based on a proportion of normal trading, grants will be available to eligible seafood businesses which meet the scheme criteria relating to the scale and nature of their business in buying fish and fish products in the last financial year and to the owners of appropriately licensed Manx registered vessels.
Under the scheme registered owners of fishing vessels which are 12 metres or longer could receive £500 a week and those under 12 metres, £150 a week, to help pay for basic operational and maintenance costs.
Mr Boot continued: “The Isle of Man Government’s package of financial support will help the most vulnerable fisheries businesses in the short term, so that they can continue to provide food and employment in the long term.”
Those in receipt of financial assistance under the scheme are not prevented from fishing, although the government strongly advises them to ensure that there is a suitable market for their catch.
Over the coming weeks the Isle of Man Government says it will continue to work closely with fishing industry representatives, and will keep the support package under regular review as the situation evolves.