More than 1,000 fishing and aquaculture businesses in England will receive direct cash grants through a fisheries support scheme, and a further £1m will be made available to support projects to assist fishermen to sell their catch in their local communities.
The government says this money will help fishing businesses find new ways to market and sell their catch while traditional markets are restricted, not only supporting the sector but also the local communities that depend on the industry.
Because the majority of fish they catch is usually destined for export, the English fishing fleet which catches fish stocks such as hake, scallops and crab, has been hit by the closure of traditional export markets and the reduction in demand from the hospitality sector.
The support scheme – which will run for up to three months – is designed to help English fishing and aquaculture businesses with their fixed costs such as such as insurance, equipment hire and port costs.
For the catching sector, the fund will be open to under-24m vessel owners with fishing licences registered in England who recorded sales of £10,000 or more in 2019.
Grants will be made to help cover fixed business costs. For the catching sector this will be calculated from the average business costs for the size of the vessel, as surveyed by the industry annually.
Details of the eligibility criteria, including the criteria for the aquaculture sector and support for local projects, will be announced in due course by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
The MMO will administer the fund, contacting eligible registered owners and licence holders directly in stages with details of how to apply, starting on April 20 through to early May.
Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘Fishing is at the heart of many of England’s coastal communities – providing local jobs as well as valued produce to their communities and through exports around the world.
‘Given the loss of trade particularly to restaurants as a result of Covid-19, this support will help fishing businesses weather the current challenges they face, and facilitate new growth in retail markets through innovative local distribution.’
The seafood and fisheries sectors, which are not covered by this grant, are encouraged to apply for the existing support available for businesses, including the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme and the coronavirus jobs retention scheme.
The government says it is working with national fisheries authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exploring methods to reduce the regulatory burden on the fishing fleet. These measures will be agreed jointly by the fisheries administrations and announced in due course.
By Pat Sweet