More than 1,000 fishing and aquaculture businesses in England are expected to receive direct cash grants through a COVID-19 Fisheries Response Fund provided by Defra and the Treasury.
Although detailed information about how to apply are yet to emerge, in the latest step to protect businesses affected by coronavirus, up to £9 million will be available for grants to eligible fishing and aquaculture businesses.
A further £1 million will be made available to support projects to assist fishermen to sell their catch in their local communities. This money will help fishing businesses find new ways to market and sell their catch while traditional markets are restricted, not only supporting the sector but also the local communities that depend on the industry.
Because the majority of fish they catch is usually destined for export, the English fishing fleet which catches fish stocks such as hake, scallops and crab, has been hit by the closure of traditional export markets and the reduction in demand from the hospitality sector.
The support scheme – which will run for up to three months – takes action to meet the immediate needs of the industry by helping English fishing and aquaculture businesses with their fixed costs such as such as insurance, equipment hire and port costs.
The measures will support English industry, in particular smaller fisherman, during this challenging time and follow an unprecedented package of financial support already announced for small businesses.
The main features of the scheme are:
o For the catching sector, the fund will be open to under-24m vessel owners with fishing licences registered in England who recorded sales of £10,000 or more in 2019.
o Grants will be made to help cover fixed business costs. For the catching sector this will be calculated from the average business costs for the size of the vessel, as surveyed by the industry annually.
o Details of the eligibility criteria, including the criteria for the aquaculture sector and support for local projects, will be announced in due course by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
o The MMO will administer the fund, contacting eligible registered owners and licence holders directly in stages with details of how to apply, starting on Monday April 20 through to early May.
o Payments will be made for up to three months.
Further information about the Fisheries Response Fund will be available from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in due course. A few more details about the scheme can also be found on the GOV.UK website.