Fishing trawler boat

Fishermen are calling for government aid similar to that offered to farmers following a series of ‘unprecedented’ storms

Help for fishermen battered by an “unprecedented” succession of storms is on the agenda today at a meeting between the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) and fisheries minister George Eustice.

The NFFO says there should be a “parity with the treatment afforded to the farming industry” and is calling for a rescue package for the fishing industry, which has suffered lost earnings because dangerous conditions have prevented fishermen going to sea.

“What is needed is immediate short-term support to put fishing businesses back on their feet,” said Paul Trebilcock, NFFO chairman and CEO of the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation. “We are not looking for long-term subsidies, but we do believe that government has a responsibility to underpin a return to profitability in these exceptional circumstances.”

The NFFO is calling on the government to give fisherman “immediate access” to the small business support scheme that was set up to provide help after the recent severe weather, and to provide funding for gear lost or damaged in storms. It is also pressing the government to set out how it will repair infrastructure damaged by the storms and defer its intention to charge the fishing industry for light dues to provide relief.

“Obviously, fishermen will judge the government on how much support it is willing to give and how easy it is to access that support,” Trebilcock added. “This is an opportunity for the government to demonstrate its commitment to the fishing industry and to the fishermen who put food on our tables in sometimes very difficult circumstances.”

Yesterday, Struan Stevenson, Scottish Euro MP and senior VP of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, weighed in on the debate by putting forward a special plea to the European Commission for “urgent help” to support British fishermen impacted by the severe weather.

“Fishermen have faced the choice of risking their lives by putting to sea in life-threatening conditions, or not having enough money to pay their bills and feed their families,” he told the Commission. “The situation is dire and urgent help is needed… I do hope that all of the relevant authorities will co-operate to get assistance to the places where it most needed without delay.”