By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on Tuesday, March 11 2014
While the U.K. government said last week it will provide funding to commercial fishermen impacted by this winter’s severe storms, fishing organizations are concerned about how much of the funds will get to those hardest hit.
From mid-December through February, high winds and flooding in many areas of the country have damaged vessels and kept boats out of the water, causing millions of GBP in losses.
At a meeting last week with U.K. Fisheries Minister George Eustace and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations (NFFO), Eustice confirmed that affected fishermen would be able to access the country’s GBP 10 million (USD 16.62 million, EUR 12 million) Small Business Storm Relief Fund. “This provides confirmation that fishing businesses can be classed as small businesses and are therefore eligible for flood damage,” Barrie Deas, NFFO CEO told SeafoodSource.
Access to the Small Business Storm Relief Fund is welcomed by the NFFO but “falls short of its request for specific compensation to help the estimated 4,000 fishermen and 2,000 vessels impacted,” according to a statement from the organization.
“Unfortunately we remain without any real, tangible compensation in a form similar to that which the farming industry has received, despite both being vital sources of food four our island nation,” said Paul Trebilcock, NFFO chairman.
“The total figure is less important than how easy it is for fishermen to access it. There are quite a few hoops for fishermen to jump through to get the money. We will reserve judgment on whether there is substance there or this is just packaging,” Deas said.
NFFO is most concerned about fishermen who have lost most or all of their fishing gear, in addition to not being able to get out to fish during the storms. For example, shell fisherman John Balls from North Devon has lost almost GBP 5,000 (USD 8,310/EUR 6,000) worth of lobster pots in the recent storms and says he is not the only one.
“Many shellfish fishermen in Devon have been left in a terrible situation. We have incurred thousands of pounds worth of damage to our pots and ropes, and as this situation is classed as an ‘act of God’, we have been unable to claim on our insurance,” said Balls.
“While other fishermen are slowly returning to work, it could be several months until we can replace the equipment and the shellfish industry could take up to six months to recover.”
Despite the NFFO’s funding concerns, the organization praised the government’s planned response to damaged infrastructure, such as harbors and sea walls.
“Fortunately, the minister has assured us steps have been taken to secure and encourage speedy repairs and the Marine Management Organization has been instructed to be flexible and expedient in providing licenses required for these repairs,” Trebilcock said.