A £10m rescue package for the UK fishing industry has been announced today, due to the export market for fish nose-diving during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic plus demand from restaurants has collapsed because they have been forced to close during lockdown.
More than 1,000 fishing and aquaculture businesses in England will receive direct cash grants through a fisheries support scheme announced today by Environment Secretary George Eustice, and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay.
The funding will be available to owners of vessels which are under 24 metres and which have an English fishing licence.
They must also have recorded sales of at least £10,000 last year in order to be eligible.
Full 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 Monday April 20 through to early May.
Payments will be made for up to three months.
Steve Barclay, the 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 reason the bailout only relates to fishing firms in England is that fishing is a devolved issue.
The cash handout was welcomed by the National Federation of Fisherman's Organisations.
Chief executive Barrie Deas said in a statement: '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.'
A statement from the Government reads: "In the latest step to protect businesses affected by coronavirus, plans unveiled today mean that up to £9 million will be available for grants to eligible fishing and aquaculture businesses.
"A further £1 million will be made available to support projects to assist fishermen to sell their catch in their local communities. 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 – takes action to meet the immediate needs of the industry by helping English fishing and aquaculture businesses with their fixed costs such as such as insurance, equipment hire and port costs.
"The measures will support English industry, in particular smaller fisherman, during this challenging time and follow an unprecedented package of financial support already announced for small businesses."
"The seafood and fisheries sectors 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 has been working closely with the fishing industry to support the industry through this challenging period. Together with national fisheries authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the Government is also 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."