The Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has called on the Government to prioritise the ‘wild catching sector’ when allocating money from its UK Seafood Fund.
The wild catching sector is the fleet that catches fish commercially, mainly offshore but also in some rivers and lakes.
The committee also recommended that the size of the fund be increased by 50% to £150m given the strong level of interest in the first round of infrastructure funding from ports, fish farms and processors.
The UK Seafood Fund was established in December 2021 to support the long-term future and sustainability of the UK fisheries and seafood sector following Brexit.
The committee’s recommendations came in a letter from its Chair, Sir Robert Goodwill MP, to the Minister for Farming, Fisheries, and Food at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Victoria Prentis MP.
In the letter Sir Robert quotes the Minister as telling the committee the main purpose of the fund is to ensure the fishing sector is “ready to catch the extra quota that is coming our way” and argues that this aim must be reflected in how the fund is spent.
Sir Robert calls for the Government to use the fund to improve the fuel efficiency of vessels, arguing that this will help fishers with increased fuel prices while also delivering environmental benefits.
The letter also recommended that the Seafood Fund be increased to £150m to March 2025 because there was a high level of interest in the first round of the fund – to which the catching sector wasn’t able to apply. Such an increase would ensure there is sufficient money to fund investment both in the wild catching sector and in other sectors including aquaculture (fish farming) and port infrastructure.
The Committee also called for the Government to provide support to help individual fishers and other small businesses apply for funding.
The Chair of the EFRA Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill MP, said:
“I couldn’t agree more with Minister Prentis that we need to prepare the fishing fleet to catch the extra quota that is coming our way. It follows that the fishers braving all weathers to catch those fish must be prioritised when allocating the new funds.
“Our fishers must be given every help to maximise their opportunities. That means increasing the size of the pot and ensuring there is enough time to apply for the new money.
“If smaller operators need help filling out what are sometimes fearsomely complex application forms for these funds, we think they should be given that help.”