In January, the Government made available £23 million for seafood exporters who had suffered a financial loss because of delays related to the export of fresh or live fish and shellfish to the EU during January 2021.
Having listened to concerns from fishing businesses across the UK, Defra will now be expanding the eligibility criteria to target catching and shellfish aquaculture businesses which have been affected by a reduction in demand from the hospitality sector in the UK and abroad, as well as disruption of exports to the EU.
The scheme, which is similar to last year’s Fisheries Response Fund set up in response to the coronavirus pandemic, will open in early March and provide a grant payment to cover up to three months of average business fixed costs, incurred between January and March 2021. It will help catching and shellfish aquaculture businesses with costs such as insurance, equipment hire and port fees.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Our fishermen are at the heart of many of our coastal communities and we recognise the impact of coronavirus and the end of the transition period on them. This expansion of our £23 million support package will ensure many more businesses can benefit from government support.
“The coronavirus pandemic has led to the closure of critical markets, and this has been exacerbated by issues faced by exporters at the border. We will continue to ensure we are listening to our fishing and seafood industry as we work to resolve these issues, and work with them to build up the industry in the months and years ahead.
The key features for shellfish aquaculture are:
- The scheme will offer support to UK shellfish aquaculture businesses, support will be provided on average ongoing costs based on full-time equivalent (FTE) employees per business. Businesses who have received a grant under the recent Seafood Producers Resilience Fund in Scotland will not be eligible for the UK scheme.
- A single payment will be made to cover a proportion of fixed costs over a three-month period from January to March 2021.
The Government stressed that it is also continuing to seek urgent resolution to export issues, including the EU ban on the import of class B live bivalve molluscs, and will explore further ways producers can continue to export these. However, mussel farmers are deeply concerned about the long-term implications of the current impasse.