The fishing industry in England will receive a £10-million bailout after its markets in the UK and Europe collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 1,000 fishing and aquaculture businesses will receive up to £9 million in direct cash grants with another £1 million available to help fishing operators sell their catch locally, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said in a statement.
The grants are to assist with the fixed business costs for up to three months for owners of under-24 metre vessels with English fishing licences who last year recorded sales of at least £10,000.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay 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 National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations chief executive, Barrie Deas, welcomed the announcement.
Mr 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 and alternatives – such as fish to your door schemes – are not as lucrative.
DEFRA said in its statement that the Government was “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.