Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

The Scottish Government have today announced a further £3.5 million in supports, to assist fishing vessels over 12 metres in length in the face of the coronavirus crisis. The latest announcement brings the total support figure for the industry up to £22.5 million.

The latest announced scheme will provide capped payments of up to £21,370 per vessel to businesses with an over 12m vessel landing shellfish such as crab, lobster, scallops, and langoustines to help them meet fixed costs such as insurance.

The scheme will also provide up to £42,740 for businesses operating more than one vessel. Amounts will be graduated by fleet segment and length category.

Speaking of the supports, Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said, “I have been working closely with the fishing and aquaculture industry since the global COVID-19 outbreak began, and have listened to calls from businesses who have seen their livelihoods disappear overnight as their markets have shut down in response to vital public health advice.

“This latest funding benefits more than 220 Scottish vessels over 12 metres. Overall, more than 1,000 fishing and aquaculture businesses are now eligible for funding to help them, their crews and staff through this unprecedented period.

“We are using Scottish and UK Government funds to support the unique needs and circumstances of Scotland’s economy, particularly to help safeguard livelihoods in coastal and island communities. This package represents the most comprehensive set of measures to support fishing and fish farming anywhere in the UK.

“Support being provided to businesses operating vessels over 12 metres finalises the relief we can offer to the sea fishing and aquaculture sectors to mitigate the economic and social impact of COVID-19 having exhausted current transitional funding streams. Discussions with industry will continue as to the impact on future sector spend.

“I would urge the public to play their part in supporting these key contributors to Scotland’s food success story by buying Scottish seafood and fish if they can.”

Elspeth Macdonald, CEO of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), said, “We welcome this further tranche of financial support for the Scottish fishing fleet, much of which has been under severe pressure since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our markets, first abroad and then at home.

“Most of the Scottish shellfish fleet has been tied up for almost a month now, as restrictions and lockdowns mean restaurant, hospitality and foodservice markets around the world that normally enjoy Scottish seafood, have essentially disappeared.

“Fishing businesses are floating businesses, so are not eligible for the Covid Small Business Grants Scheme based on rateable premises.

“We are grateful to Fergus Ewing and Marine Scotland for having regular dialogue with us, listening to industry, and acting quickly to provide support to the fishing industry and wider seafood sector, on which so many of our coastal communities depend.”

Elaine Whyte, a National Co-ordinator for Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance, said, “COVID-19 has had a great impact on our fishing communities, closing markets completely and reducing much-relied-upon income for coastal families nationally.

“We’ve worried greatly about securing some type of emergency assistance for this section of society which had lost the ability to earn a living at sea and provide for their families, many of whom not were not eligible for other forms of current support.

“We sincerely thank the Scottish Government for addressing the needs of people who fish for a living, most of whom live in already fragile Scottish coastal communities. The support offered will hopefully help save vulnerable businesses which are the backbone of their villages and towns.”

The over 12 metre fleet support scheme is open to businesses operating active Scottish registered and licensed vessels over 12 metres in overall length only, where a vessel made a minimum of £20,000 landings in 2019.

Grants will be made on the basis of three months equivalent of recurring fixed costs, excluding elements such as mortgages, interest, depreciation, crew costs and fishing gear repairs or purchases are not included in these costs. The fixed costs are based on data gathered by Seafish as part of their Annual Fleet Economic Surveys.

Image: Eugene Rutter