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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Fishing industry welcomes aid pledge at boats get back to sea

Story courtesy of the Western Morning News.



Newlyn's busy port is empty today as fishing boats get out to sea


Harbours were empty today as the Westcountry’s storm pummelled fishing fleet finally managed to get out to sea amid Government promises of help dealing with the aftermath of the terrible weather.

After more than two months when only the biggest vessels were able to grab an “odd day out,” fishermen seized the opportunity to fill their holds and earn some money.

Meanwhile industry leaders have said they will next week meet with the Government after pledges that storm aid to small businesses will include fishermen.

Paul Trebilcock, chief executive of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation and chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO), said it had been a hard period for people in the industry.

“It has been pretty bad,” he said.

“The smaller boats have been pretty much tied up for the duration, while even the bigger boats have only been able to grab the odd day out fishing and the catch has been nothing like it should have been.

“This has gone on for about two months now and people are frustrated.

“It’s one of the most exceptional periods of weather that anyone can remember.”

Mr Trebilcock, who is based in Newlyn, said the port was virtually empty as fishermen took advantage of the good weather to replenish stocks.

He said that the NFFO was meeting with Defra officials next week to discuss the impact of the storm on fishermen who have been hit hard by the storms.

In the Cornish village of Porthleven alone, ten boats sunk under a barrage of waves, while across the region dozens have suffered uninsured damage.

In a memo sent to Mr Trebilcock, a senior Defra official said the “priority is to ensure that government aid for small businessesinclude fishermen affected by unparalleled storms in December, January and February. “An evaluation of those affected is being undertaken and sources of potential funding prepared.”

Mr Trebilcock welcomed the assurance, saying Defra was “making the right noises” to help people who have seen their livelihood snatched away by the weather.

Jim Portus, chief executive of the Devon based South West Fish Producers Organisation, said it had been a difficult time for his members. He said that ironically boats had been out for more days than last January and February, but the catch had been much smaller and profits lower. Fishermen were resilient people, he said: “Fishing is a risky activity and fishermen are generally well prepared for the economic and physical risk.”

Mr Portus also called on consumers to ensure they were supporting the region’s fishing industry by buying fresh, locally sourced fish.

St Ives MP Andrew George said he would be working hard to pressure Government ministers to give maximum aid to the hard hit fishing industry as well as to farming. He recently took Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to meet some of the fishermen who have been affected. Mr George said he had now written to Mr Clegg to ask what action had been taken to ensure fishermen who suffered losses would be helped by the Government.

Read more here:

By Lyn Barton, WMN reporter, Twitter: @BartonLyn