The Welsh Government has launched a new £1.3m scheme to help the Welsh fishing and aquaculture sector following the twin hits to their businesses caused by leaving the EU and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sector in Wales, whose largest export trading partner is the EU, has been hit hard by the UK/ EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) which came into force January 1 this year.
Welsh fishers have suffered severe trade disruption, and many of our aquaculture businesses trading in live bivalve molluscs, such as mussels, have seen a total cessation of trade.
This disruption has exacerbated what was already a critical situation for the Welsh seafood sector following the closure of hospitality markets due to COVID-19 restrictions
The new Welsh Seafood Sector Resilience Scheme will support seafood businesses through two elements.
The first part of the scheme will see a targeted one-off grant made available to eligible Welsh vessel-owning fishing businesses, with the grant equivalent to three months’ vessel costs, capped at £10,000.
The payments will be based on vessel size and the number of corresponding categories.
While similar to the UK Government’s Seafood Response Fund, the qualifying reference period for the Welsh scheme will be longer, providing support to more Welsh fishing businesses who need support.
The qualifying criteria will be similar to that of the 2020 Welsh Fisheries Grant.
The second part will see support provided to aquaculture businesses, including those trading in live bivalve molluscs.
Businesses will be able to apply for a grant for the first three months of 2021, to provide half of the average of their monthly gross revenue for each month, at a maximum cap of £40,500.
The scheme will be open for applications from Wednesday 17 March and close on Wednesday 31 March.
The new funds were announced today by Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs.
The Minister said:
“Since January, seafood businesses in Wales have suffered severe trade disruption – with businesses who supply live bivalve molluscs from class B waters facing closure as their EU markets disappeared.
“Many other businesses have faced a further blow from the closure of hospitality markets due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
While I welcome the support provided by the UK Government via its Seafood Response Fund, it only gives partial support for Welsh fisheries and aquaculture businesses. As such, I felt it was vital that we give seafood businesses the support they need during these difficult times.
“The support provided will help those eligible to cover their costs during this difficult time, and ensure we have a competitive seafood sector once this crisis has passed.
“We were promised we would not receive ‘a penny less’ after leaving the EU. Clearly this deal has been broken. I will continue to lobby the UK Government to come good on the commitment they made to our fishing and aquaculture sector.”
In addition to the support provided via the scheme, the remaining European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will target COVID-19 recovery, offering fishers the opportunity to add value to catch.
The new approach to the programme should start in June, with further details due from Rural Payment Wales.
Small Scale Coastal Infrastructure Scheme
Also announced today was the Small Scale Coastal Infrastructure Scheme: a £1m fund available to all port authorities and coastal local authorities to make improvements to ports and harbours, providing the infrastructure needed as businesses transition towards environmentally sustainable operations.
The scheme will provide grants of up to £100,000 for capital investment into ports and harbours, allowing for environmental, operational, safety and security improvements.
The Minister added:
“As trading businesses look to the future and recovery, well-maintained infrastructure is key to allowing them to succeed.
“The Small Scale Coastal Infrastructure Scheme will allow for improvements at ports and harbours across Wales.”