Monday, 11 May 2020

Fisheries APPG Goes Online to Brief MPs on #FishingSupport under COVID-19.

Last week, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries saw record attendance, as it hosted its first virtual event, “Support for the Fisheries Sector”, attracting over 70 participants from all over the UK. MPs and high-level officials from across the fisheries sector met via webinar to discuss the support measures put in place to help UK seafood during the coronavirus pandemic.

Notable representatives from Seafish, the MMO, Marine Scotland, DAERA and the Welsh Government all gave presentations, briefing attendees on the support measures available across the UK and for individual countries. Sheryll Murray MP, Chair of the APPG, gave opening remarks, before handing over to David Duguid MP to chair the session. 

“Our focus in recent weeks has been to collaborate with industry to help keep the fabric of the seafood supply chain intact during the coronavirus crisis, so that when this situation passes the seafood sector will be able to recover,” said Aoife Martin, Director of Operations at Seafish. She noted that Seafish’s pandemic-responsive work has included advising on direct sales, collaborating on changes to product labelling, issuing critical working certificates and transforming their industry training programme to meet needs arising from the current crisis. 

Tom McCormack, CEO of the Marine Management Organisation, spoke about the measures put in place across England. “To assist our industry stakeholders, we have put together a financial and welfare support guide for the fishing industry to signpost the support announced by the Government.” The MMO is administering two funds: the Fisheries Response Fund for fishing and aquaculture businesses, and the Direct Seafood Supply Scheme to promote locally caught seafood. “The MMO has expanded its grants team and extended its opening hours to evenings and Saturdays to help advise on these grants,” he continued. “We are in regular contact with industry representatives to keep them up to speed with the help available.” 
Allan Gibb, Head of Sea Fisheries at Marine Scotland, provided the Scottish perspective. “In Scotland, there are two hardship schemes covering over- and under-12m vessels, focusing mostly on the shellfish fleet, where the market impact has been the most severe. These funds allow businesses to meet their fixed costs and enable owners to keep their business afloat.” To access support, he advised members of the sector to get in touch with their affiliated association if they have one, their local Member of Scottish Parliament, or find further details on the Scottish Government website.

“In Wales, the most immediate form of financial assistance is the Welsh Fisheries Grant, which aims to support full-time vessel-owning fishers with some of their fixed costs” shared Mike Dowell, Deputy Director of the Welsh Government’s Marine and Fisheries Department. “There are also other various Welsh Government and UK Government support schemes that fishers may be eligible for.” As well as online resources, he added that industry bodies such as the Welsh Fishermen’s Association are also able to direct members to avenues of support.

Paddy Campbell, who heads up DAERA’s Sea Fisheries Policy and Grants division, spoke on behalf of Northern Ireland. “The sea fish catching sector in Northern Ireland will benefit from £1.5 million to assist with vessel fixed costs under the Sea Fish Industry (Coronavirus) (Fixed Costs) Scheme (NI) 2020. The industry can also take advantage of UK-wide schemes such as the Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme.” For the DAERA scheme, he underscored that any eligible vessel owner who has not been contacted can get in touch at

When asked how the public could support UK fishing, all panelists were in agreement: buy local. “Take the time to buy locally caught seafood, either from your high-street fishmonger or via the range of direct delivery online platforms available,” said Aoife Martin. This might involve branching out into consuming less familiar species. “Developing a domestic market for species of fish and shellfish not traditionally eaten by the UK public would certainly help,” said Mike Dowell.

The event was recorded in its entirety and will soon be available on the APPG website. A detailed report will also be available in the coming weeks. The next APPG event, which will focus on innovative responses to the pandemic, is scheduled for 4 June at 3pm, and will take place via Zoom. You can email the Secretariat at to register. 

Contact: All Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries Secretariat