Marine Fund announces grants for fishers and processors

Mairi Gougeon

Fishing businesses and marine organisations in Scotland have been awarded funding to mitigate the impacts of Brexit, help the sector recover from effects of COVID-19 and protect the environment.

The financial support of almost £800,000 – part of the £14m Marine Fund Scotland – was announced by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon in a food and drink debate in the Scottish Parliament.

Recipients in the latest round of awards include the Independent Fishers Science Support Scheme (nearly £360,000) to support onboard observers on fishing vessels, £280,000 to Seafish for fisher training and the Solway Marine  Litter project (£41,060). Fish processor and supplier Downies of Whitehills, based in Aberdeenshire, is to get around £206,000 towards a new store and freezer.

The awards round was announced by Fisheries Secretary Mairi Gougeon in the Scottish Parliament. She said: “Our producers, farmers and fishermen showed tremendous spirit as they navigated the pandemic and now face the stark realities of a new operating landscape brought about by a reckless Brexit deal.

“Daily, we hear of new and emerging challenges – shortages of HGV drivers, workers in processing and manufacturing, as well as associated skills shortages across the industry.

“Labour and skills shortages like these lay bare the extraordinary recklessness of this hard Brexit.”

Meanwhile, the UK Government-led Scottish Seafood Industry Action Group convened for the first time this week, in an online meeting chaired by UK Government Minister for Scotland David Duguid.

The Action Group is a successor to the Scottish Seafood Exports Task Force, which was wound up earlier this year after producing a report – published last week – outlining problems for the sector and priorities for action.

The Scottish National Party had criticised the decision to end the Task Force, but Duguid said the Action Group would continue to address the issues identified.

Duguid said, following the Group’s first meeting: “There was good news on progress on digitisation of paperwork for exporters and we are raising concerns with the EU about plans that would mean each animal for live export would have to be counted, possibly adding unnecessary stress for shellfish such as crabs and lobster.

“A priority for the industry is the issue of labour shortages and this is something we are in the process of considering.”

David Duguid