The NFFO, the representative body for fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has welcomed the Government’s announcement of a £10 million support package for fishing businesses in England.
It has released the following statement:
“This is a further important step towards shielding our crews and fleets economically, to ensure that they can remain intact and recover after the Covid-19 health emergency has passed. Along with the support for furloughed workers and self-employed share-fishermen, this announcement is an important step towards closing gaps in the safety-net put in place to protect the economy from the worst economic effects of the pandemic.
“The grants to fishing vessels will go a considerable way to covering some of the mounting fixed costs faced by fishing businesses, at a time when lockdown has removed or seriously diminished markets for fish and shellfish. It is a top-up/tie-up scheme which will allow those vessels that have been forced to tie-up to resume fishing as soon as it is judged that there are markets to sustain a return to fishing activities and to contribute to the nation’s food supply.
“The scheme also brings belated parity with terrestrial businesses (which can access small business grants of £10,000), and with fishing fleets under the devolved administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, which have already announced their own support measures.
“The announcement towards the end of last week came as a huge relief to many vessel operators who had begun to despair that the English fleets had been abandoned. In the end persistence paid off.
“The three-month scheme could not be described as generous. It has been capped at £10,000 per business. It has also been carefully calibrated to provide the minimum support necessary to keep fishing businesses of different sizes intact. As soon as markets recover, the scheme will end.
“As welcome as the announcement of this scheme has been, it is not without anomalies. Vessels over 24 metres have not been included, despite some also having been seriously impacted. This is particularly true of the scallop sector, one of the fleets most severely affected by the collapse of export markets. Parts of the whitefish fleet also remain exposed and without support. The NFFO will continue to talk to government about providing coverage for the whole fleet and aspects of the scheme which, so far, lack clarity.
“Details of the scheme will be available shortly on the Marine Management Organisation website.