COVID-19: Fishing Industry

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 3rd November 2020.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 2:15 pm, 3rd November 2020

On 3 April 2020, I announced a temporary support package for the sea fisheries sector that was geared to cover 50% of a fishing vessel's costs for three months from March to May 2020, provided genuine losses had accrued as a direct result of the pandemic. The aim of the scheme was to get support on the ground as soon as possible as a result of the total loss of markets. In total, £1·32 million has been paid out through the scheme to 171 fishing vessel owners. Approximately £1·02 million has been provided to over-10-metre vessels and £300,000 to vessels of 10 metres and under.

On 26 May, I announced a support scheme for Northern Ireland aquaculture undertakings that had incurred financial losses through lost markets from March to May inclusive. Up to £360,000 was made available to the sector. In total, 19 aquaculture businesses were invited to apply for support, the level of which was based on the income forgone as a result of COVID-19 from 1 March to 31 May. Fifteen applications were received, and 15 offers of financial assistance were made, with 14 accepted. To date, £83,600 has been paid to 13 eligible applicants, and a further £13,000 of support is being processed for the remaining two applicants. The initial level of support that was anticipated to have been required was overestimated, as the figures supplied by business owners were not, in many cases, as large as originally indicated.

More recently, on 5 October, I announced a further £1·7 million financial support package for the sea fisheries catching sector, which continues to be impacted by lost markets as a result of COVID-19. The support package is to deliver a £1·31 million temporary cessation scheme under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for trawlers and dredgers and is currently open to applications. Invitation letters were issued to owners of 111 vessels, and, to date, 76 applications have been received to the value of £956,000. A £390,000 fixed cost scheme for static fishers will be open to applications in early November 2020. Under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, I am also working with my officials to provide a £336,000 support package to the Lough Neagh fishermen.