Ministers announce £10m bailout for England's fishing industry

Fishermen get a £10m lifeline to stay afloat: Government will hand 1,000 businesses cash grants as exports collapse and price of fish plummets amid coronavirus crisis

  • The fishing industry has been hammered by the UK’s coronavirus lockdown
  • Demand for fish has collapsed because restaurants have been forced to close
  • International trade has also suffered prompting ministers to announce bailout 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Ministers have announced a £10 million bailout for England’s fishing industry to keep firms afloat during the coronavirus crisis. 

The industry has been hammered by the current outbreak with demand from restaurants having collapsed because they have been forced to close during lockdown. 

Meanwhile, the international fish market has also taken a massive hit with UK trawlers struggling to export what they catch. 

The government’s bailout will see direct cash grants awarded to more than 1,000 fishing and aquaculture businesses with a total of £9 million available.

A further £1 million is also being put up by ministers to help fishing operators sell their catch locally. 

Ministers have announced a £10m bailout for England’s fishing industry. Pictured are fishing boats at North Shields Fish Quay on the bank of the River Tyne in northeast England today

The money, announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), will be used to assist with firms’ fixed business costs for up to three months. 

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.

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.’

The demand for seafood from the restaurant trade and in exports to EU countries has dried up because of the Covid-19 crisis.

There have also been reports of falling prices as fishermen struggle to find buyers for their catch, with alternatives like fish to your door schemes not as lucrative.

Defra said in a statement the government was 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,’ it added.

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