Following intense pressure, a £10 million coronavirus support package has been announced for the fishing industry in England.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has stated more than 1,000 fishing and aquaculture businesses will receive up to £9 million in direct cash grants with another £1 million available to help fishing operators sell their catch locally.
The grants are to assist with the fixed business costs for up to three months for owners of under-24 metre vessels with English fishing licences who last year recorded sales of at least £10,000.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the scheme “will provide a lifeline for more than 1,000 fishing businesses so they can continue to maintain and operate their boats during this challenging time, which has seen falling prices and lack of demand for fish from the restaurant industry.”
“We are continuing to work closely with the fishing and aquaculture industry to ensure that they are supported and can get back to their vital role of providing fish for the table while contributing to the economy of many of our coastal communities,” he said.
The Government’s support package has been welcomed by fishermen in England. Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the NFFO said: “This package of support from the Government will help English fishermen to keep their boats and businesses.
“Like many industries, the fishing industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. Apart from a few local landings, the shellfish market has evaporated, export markets have collapsed, restaurants and many fish and chip shops have closed, and some supermarkets have closed their fish counters.
“The furlough scheme only helped some fishermen as very few are on PAYE and other government help, like business rate relief, doesn’t help boats that are tied up in harbour.
“The help for the self-employed certainly helped many share-fishermen but boats with fixed costs and collapsed markets remain badly exposed.
“We asked the Government for specific support for fishing businesses, they have responded and we appreciate it.
“It is vital now that the promised £10m of assistance flows quickly to help fishing businesses survive and that the government continues to listen and support the industry beyond the immediate crisis.”
Packages in support of the industry in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have already been announced.
Image: Emily Rose (Luke Selvey)