Government, the national fishing federations and the Fishermen’s Mission share a commitment to the whole fishing industry. This means not only the fishing businesses that make up the sector, but the crews who work on the vessels as owner/operators, self-employed share-fishermen, or fishermen under employment contracts.
Financial support measures from governments across the UK have been significant in scale and delivered with a rapidity and efficiency that has matched the urgency of the moment. Of necessity, these schemes have been broad-brush, including in the case of the fishing industry, where stand-alone schemes to cover unavoidable business costs were agreed by the Treasury and devolved administrations. Inevitably, some fishermen have fallen through the gaps.
The period of extreme emergency is slowly receding, although there is a risk of a second wave of infections, as lockdown measures are relaxed. Markets are tentatively returning but not in all areas. Some will take a long time to fully recover. Having survived the last few difficult months, the focus is now on how to get through the slow and possibly prolonged recovery period. This at a time when financial resilience for businesses and crew will be low. With no reserves put aside, large parts of the industry are highly vulnerable. The challenges of debt management as Government support schemes end will affect many fishermen and their families.
Identified areas of risk
There have been those who have fallen through the gaps in the support measures. Whether this is because of personal circumstances, or the criteria used to frame the different support schemes, it is important that these people are not left behind.
We, collectively feel a responsibility to:
- Identify those at risk from the loss of their business and/or personal difficulties.
- Analyse the nature of the difficulties they are now facing.
- Develop and provide adequate solutions, that will help fishermen who are struggling through this unprecedented and challenging time.
An array of support agencies, including government, private and charitable already exist. Their role is to support those in the fishing sector who are facing genuine difficulties.
Navigating these different agencies to find the right kind of support can, however, be daunting. There is now an urgent need for a single point of contact to be established so that fishermen can be directed to the support appropriate to each individual case.
The Fishermen’s Mission has agreed to operate a “one-stop shop” for all matters relating to welfare and the wellbeing of both active and retired fishermen and their families. Their contact information is: Freephone 0800 6341020 or landline 01489 566910; email: email@example.com or via their website: www.fishermensmission.org.uk by using the Need Help button. The Fishermen’s Mission also has a strong presence on Twitter @thefishmish and Facebook Fishermen’s Mission where they can receive direct messages. It is our hope that the Fishermen’s Mission become the first point of contact for all fishermen when they need this kind of support and that this information is widely available to them.
Tough Months Ahead
We anticipate that the next few months will be tough. There is both economic and financial uncertainty, as well as fear and concern about a second wave, should the pandemic return in force. In these difficult conditions, it is our collective intention to ensure fishermen (and their families) are guided to available sources of support where and when it is needed. If, in order for this to happen, we need further government intervention, we will not hesitate to make that case. Our intention, with this initiative, is to ensure as far as possible, that appropriate assistance is available to everyone who needs it and to ensure that we return to being the strong, resilient, industry we were before this crisis and that we can be again.
Elspeth Macdonald CE
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation
Barrie Deas CE
National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations
David Dickens CE
The Fishermen’s Mission