Pressure is mounting on the UK Government for a support package for the fishing industry in England and Wales. Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man have already announced financial support packages of various kinds for their fleets. The focus is now on Westminster for parallel support for fishing businesses squeezed by mounting fixed costs and collapsed demand, due to covid-19, and who cannot access other business support mechanisms.
“This is now urgent”, said Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations. “The Chancellor has said that it will do what it takes to support businesses and workers through this crisis, and it is true that the level of support is unprecedented. Our problem is that our industry is unique in its structure and organisation. The broad-brush approach leaves many fishing enterprises at risk of business failure.”
“We need a bespoke fishing industry support scheme that will allow us to keep our heads above water until this crisis subsides. Without that support to cover ongoing fixed costs, there is a real danger that businesses of all sizes could go under.”
“We have made the case to Defra and believe that it has been well understood and accords with the government data gathered on landings, costs, earnings and prices. What we need is now is a decision and an announcement.”
“Our longstanding fear is that when it comes to a crisis like this, there is no voice at ministerial level making the case for the English industry. The UK ministerial role means that we do not have the clout when push comes to shove. I very much hope that I am wrong about this. The final decision will lie with the Treasury but the future without bridging support is stark indeed.”
“Direct support is being given to the hospitality and restaurant sector, quite rightly as they have been closed down during this health emergency. But there is a clear gap in the support for those who supply those restaurants.”
“Apart from a few local landings, the shellfish market has evaporated. Restaurants have closed. Fish and Chip shops have largely closed. Some supermarkets have closed their fish counters. Many export markets have collapsed. Some innovative ways to sell fish to the doorstep are under way but we are under no illusion that these initiatives cannot replace the mainstream supply chains.
The Federation is mounting a strenuous campaign. Further details will follow.