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NFFO secures government support for storm hit fishermen, but says more must be done
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has welcomed confirmation by Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, that fishermen affected by the recent extreme weather will have access to the government’s storm relief fund, but says much more needs to be done to support the sector as one of the worst hit industries.
At a crunch meeting last week the minister confirmed fishermen affected would be able to access the £10m Small Business Storm Relief Fund, which although welcome by the NFFO, falls short of its request for specific compensation to help the estimated 4,000 fishermen and 2,000 vessels impacted.
Fishermen have been hit hard by the recent stormy weather with many unable to get out to sea to earn a living since before Christmas.
The NFFO Chairman, Paul Trebilcock, who attended the meeting to negotiate on behalf of UK fishermen, said: “One of our key objectives from the meeting was securing access for fishermen to the small business support fund, which we did. Unfortunately we remain without any real, tangible compensation in a form similar to that which the farming industry has received, despite both being vital sources of food four our island nation.”
At the National Farmers’ Union conference Eustice revealed details of a £10m Farming Flood Recovery Fund specifically designed to get farmers back on their feet. There has also been a commitment from Sport England to provide a £5m pot for repairing sports facilities damaged by the flooding and storms.
Mr Trebilcok added: “It’s certainly a source of frustration that resources are being put into repairing cricket pitches before going to fishermen who are struggling after months of no income and have damaged equipment that isn’t cheap to fix.”
However, Mr Trebilcock pointed to the other positives coming from the meeting: “We needed to know how the government was going to respond to damaged infrastructure, such as harbours, sea walls and defences. Fortunately the minister has assured us steps have been taken to secure and encourage speedy repairs and the Marine Management Organisation has been instructed to be flexible and expedient in providing licenses required for these repairs.”
On top of making no income while unable to get to sea, some fishermen have suffered doubly with valuable fishing gear being irreparably damaged or lost.
Shell fisherman John Balls from North Devon has lost almost £5,000 worth of lobster pots in the recent storms and says he is not the only one: “Many shell fishermen in Devon have been left in a terrible situation. We have incurred thousands of pounds worth of damage to our pots and ropes, and as this situation is classed as an act of God, we have been unable to claim on our insurance.
“While other fishermen are slowly returning to work, it could be several months until we can replace the equipment and the shellfish industry could take up to six months to recover.”
The NFFO pressed government for support for fishermen like John who have lost expensive gear, but the minister would not be drawn on giving a commitment.
Mr Trebilcock continued: “Mr Eustice was sympathetic and understood the argument about compensating those who have lost thousands of pounds of gear. He wasn’t prepared to say ‘yes we’re going to do that’, but he has committed to taking it into consideration.”
Following the meeting, George Eustice MP, the Fisheries Minister, said: “The severe weather over recent months has had a significant impact on a number of fishing communities.
“The government has made a £10m grant fund open to flood affected businesses, and further options are being considered to help fishermen affected by storms.”