Seafood funding must prioritize UK fishing fleet, government committee urges

Published on
July 22, 2022
U.K. Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Minister of State Victoria Prentis

The U.K.’s Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has called on the state to prioritize the wild-catch sector when allocating money from the next round of its seafood fund.

The committee has recommended the size of the fund should be increased by 50 percent to GBP 150 million (USD 179.3 million, EUR 176.4 million) because of the strong level of interest in the first round of infrastructure funding from ports, fish farms, and processors. 

Established in December 2021, the U.K. Seafood Fund (UKSF) was introduced to support the long-term future and sustainability of the U.K. fisheries and seafood sectors following Brexit.

The committee’s recommendations came in a letter from its chair – Sir Robert Goodwill – to U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Minister for Farming, Fisheries, and Food Victoria Prentis. 

In the letter, dated 15 July, 2022, Goodwill quotes the minister as telling the committee the main purpose of UKSF is to ensure the fishing sector is “ready to catch the extra quota that is coming our way” and argues that this aim must be reflected in how the funds are spent. He calls for the government to use the fund to improve the fuel efficiency of vessels, arguing that this will help fishers with increased fuel prices while also delivering environmental benefits.

The letter contained the recommendation that the seafood fund be increased to GBP 150 million to March 2025, and that the extra GBP 50 million (USD 59.8 million, EUR 58.8 million) should be directed to the infrastructure scheme to support the wild-catch sector, because there was a high level of interest in the first round of the fund – to which the catching sector wasn’t able to apply. Such an increase would ensure there is sufficient money to fund investment both in the wild-catch sector and in other sectors, including aquaculture and port infrastructure, Goodwill wrote. 

The committee has also called for the government to provide support to help individual fishers and other small businesses apply for funding. Goodwill signed off the letter asking if Prentis could reply within two months’ time setting out how she intends to improve the UKSF in line with the committee’s recommendations.

Commenting on the recommendations, Goodwill stated that he “couldn’t agree more” with Prentis on the need to prepare the fishing fleet to catch the extra quota.

“Our fishers must be given every help to maximize their opportunities. That means increasing the size of the pot and ensuring there is enough time to apply for the new money," Goodwill said. “If smaller operators need help filling out what are sometimes fearsomely complex application forms for these funds, we think they should be given that help."

Photo courtesy of the U.K. Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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