UK fishermen seek funding after millions in storm losses

Published on
February 14, 2014

U.K. commercial fishermen are urging the country’s government to help subsidize millions in losses from unprecedented winter storms.

Since mid-December high winds and flooding in many areas have damaged vessels, and kept boats out of the water. The stormy weather does not appear to be letting up with high gales projected for the weekend of 15 February.

The hardest hit areas include the Irish Coast, the Southwest, and the South Coast, but certain areas of the North Sea and other regions have been impacted as well.

“This is unprecedented weather, with relentless storms coming in and very serious socioeconomic effects,” Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations (NFFO) told SeafoodSource.  “We have made the case to government and talked to senior officials about the need for a package that addresses the loss of earnings, the damage to static gear and damage to infrastructure.”

The fisheries need emergency funding because of the “profound damage to all types of vessels in a widespread area,” Deas said. Estimates suggest 2,000 boats and around 4,000 fishermen are being affected by the weather.

The lost income from not being able to fish is also taking a toll on U.K. fisheries. “Almost every port where vessels are launched has been effected, with vessels getting out to sea only occasionally since mid-December. There are no earnings and the operators go into debt,” Deas said.

“There is concern some fishermen will be tempted to take more risks and go out in weather in which they normally wouldn’t,” according to a statement from NFFO.

NFFO is working with the Department of Food Environment and Rural Affairs to put together a funding package for fishermen. The government needs to identify sources of funding, including the European Maritime Fisheries Fund, according to Deas.

While GBP 10 million (USD 16.7 million, EUR 12.2 million) has been provided to U.K. farmers and another GBP 5,000 (USD 8,370/EUR 6,112) to small businesses, the government has not yet earmarked funds for fishermen.

In addition to the boat damage and loss of income, the storms are impacting the supply of a wide variety of fresh fish and shellfish. At this time of year, fishermen would typically be bringing in bass, cod, crab, lobster, flatfish, and many other species. The price on some fish has nearly doubled over the past six weeks, according to NFFO.

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