English fishing, aquaculture businesses receive GBP 10 million coronavirus support

Published on
April 20, 2020

More than 1,000 fishing and aquaculture businesses in England are being offered the opportunity to receive direct cash grants through a new multi-million-pound fisheries support scheme launched by the U.K. government.

Announced by Environment Secretary George Eustice and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay, the fund is the latest step to protect businesses affected by COVID-19, with up to GBP 9 million (USD 11.2 million, EUR 10.3 million) made available for eligible fishing and aquaculture businesses.

A further GBP 1 million (USD 1.2 million, EUR 1.1 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.

“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,” Barclay said.

The support scheme will run for up to three months.

Because the majority of fish caught by the English fleet is usually destined for overseas markets, the industry has been hit hard by the closure of traditional export markets and the reduction in demand from the hospitality sector.

“This GBP 10 million 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,” Eustice said. “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.”

The main features of the scheme are:

  • For the catching sector, the fund will be open to under-24 meter vessel owners with fishing licences registered in England who recorded sales of GBP 10,000 (USD 12,475, EUR 11,468) 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. It will be contacting eligible registered owners and licence holders directly in stages with details of how to apply, starting on 20 April through to early May.

“We’ve continued to stay closely engaged with the fishing industry and are very much aware of the difficulties many fishing businesses have been facing with the downturn in markets for fish and shellfish. We absolutely acknowledge the importance of our fishing industries and share concerns about these current impacts – it is our problem too,” MMO Chief Executive Tom McCormack said.

McCormack praised the industry’s quick and coordinated response in making the extent of its difficulties known.

“The data we collect from the fishing industry has proved timely and incredibly valuable in helping to quickly evidence the current situation and to target where financial support is most needed,” McCormack said. “We will be reviewing as we go, and will continue to engage with and listen to industry to ensure we’re supporting our fishing industry in the right ways.”

The seafood and fisheries sectors are also being encouraged to apply for the existing support available for businesses, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme.

Meanwhile, the government has said that it is exploring methods to reduce the regulatory burden on the fishing fleet. These measures will be agreed jointly by the fisheries administrations.

The English fishing industry catches around 96,000 metric tons (MT) of fish and shellfish annually, generating a first-sales value in excess of GBP 200 million (USD 249.4 million, EUR 229.5 million). The country’s aquaculture sector produces approximately 7,300 MT of finfish and shellfish valued at more than GBP 25 million (USD 31.2 million, EUR 28.7 million).

England exports around 83,000 MT of seafood products valued at GBP 480 million (USD 598.5 million, EUR 550.8 million), although this includes products caught and produced in other U.K. countries. 

Photo courtesy of Helen Hotson/Shutterstock 

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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