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Friday, 28 February 2014

Fishing industry has "reason to be optimistic" after minister meeting in London

Fishermen’s leaders say they there is “reason to be optimistic” following a crunch summit with ministers about losses to the industry which it is estimated could run into millions of pounds.

Newlyn-based Paul Trebilcock, chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) and chief executive of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation, led the delegation to speak to George Eustice, fisheries minister and Camborne and Redruth MP. Mr Trebilock said after the meeting in London that it had gone well, although not all their demands had been met.

“It was a positive meeting,” he said. “There was genuine interest from the minister and I think there are reasons to be optimistic.”

The industry leaders had gone into the discussion with the aim of pressing for action in a number of areas, including: 
 • Immediate access for fishermen to the Government’s small business support scheme for businesses affected by the severe weather 
 • Gear replacement funding for static gear damaged or lost in the storms 
 • An announcement on how Government is going to help repair the infrastructures damaged by the storms 
 • Steps to help fishermen recoup the lost earnings suffered from being unable to go to sea for prolonged periods over December, January and February 
 • Deferral of the Government’s intention to charge the fishing industry for light dues, a levy which contributes to the cost of lighthouse services.

Mr Trebilcock said fishing communities had been hard hit by the unprecedented storms, which had left boats sunk and beyond repair even if they were moored in a harbour. He said that taking into account the entire industry, from lost earnings for fishermen, due to very few days at sea, processors, markets, transport and gear, the bill could well run into over £1million. The meeting with Mr Eustice secured an important guarantee that fishermen would be able to access a fund set up for businesses affected by flooding and gales.

The minister also told the NFFO delegation that he had instructed officers to expedite applications for European grant money which could be made available. Mr Eustice also told the delegation that he had spoken to ministerial colleagues about harbour repairs and that he understood the importance to the industry. The minister also said he would consider reviewing light due, the levy fishermen pay to help fund the lighthouse service.

Quota guidelines may also be made more flexible to allow for the hiatus in putting out to sea.

However, Mr Trebilcock said there was no commitment to a scheme to fund gear losses. “The minister was interested and wanted to understand about the levels of losses and what could be repaired, but there was no commitment to scheme, although the minister did say he was going to consider it. “I would have liked to have him say that we can have this scheme and that they just have to work out the details, rather than hear him say it is something they could consider. “But overall, it was a good meeting. “The minister was sympathetic and generally interested in the scale of the problem.

He did appear to want to understand but we do need more than sympathy.” Mr Trebilcock said the NFFO and members of the fishing industry in general would be closely monitoring the situation. Fisheries Minister George Eustice said: “The severe weather over recent months has had a significant impact on a number of fishing communities.

“The government has made a £10 million grant fund open to flood affected businesses, and further options are being considered to help fishermen affected by storms.”

Read more: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Fishing-industry-reason-optimistic-minister/story-20719011-detail/story.html#ixzz2uciSp8Fd