Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
Today I am announcing a £2.3 million investment in our coastal communities to support the seafood industry, harbour infrastructure and the marine environment.
Since 1 January 2021, as a result of EU Exit and the conclusion of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), seafood businesses in Wales have suffered severe trade disruption, or cessation in the case of Live Bivalve Molluscs from class B waters. 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 UK Government’s Seafood Response Fund only provides partial support for our Welsh fisheries and aquaculture businesses. I have repeatedly asked the UK Government to adequately support the needs of the Welsh sector to no avail.
I have, therefore, allocated up to £1.3 million to the Welsh Seafood Sector Resilience Scheme. The scheme will contain two elements. Firstly, a targeted one off grant to eligible Welsh vessel owning fishing businesses, equivalent to 3 months fixed vessel costs capped at a maximum of £10,000. The payments will be determined by vessel size, and the number of categories and the corresponding grant will mirror the UK scheme. This approach provides financial parity with the UK scheme, but crucially, the qualifying reference period for the Welsh scheme will be longer, thus reaching far more Welsh fishing businesses, who need support. The qualifying criteria will be closely aligned to that of the 2020 Welsh Fisheries Grant.
For aquaculture, we know that businesses in Wales have been hit hard by the TCA negotiated by the UK Government which fails to provide for the continued trade of Live Bivalve Molluscs from class B waters. The UK Government had provided repeated assurances to this part of the sector that trade would continue unaffected, and that there would be no need for these businesses to adjust their business model. Clearly, this has not proved to be the case.
The Welsh scheme will provide a grant for the first three months of 2021 at 50% of average monthly gross revenue, (the highest grossing year 2017-2019) to a maximum cap of £40,500.
The support provided will help those eligible to cover their costs during this difficult time, and ensure Wales has a competitive seafood sector once this crisis has passed. The scheme will be open to applications between 17 and 31 of March. Eligible applicants can apply to either the UK or Welsh schemes, but not both.
To help emerge from the challenges of EU Exit and Covid-19, it is also important for Welsh ports and harbours to have the necessary infrastructure available to transition towards having environmentally-sustainable operations with fit-for-purpose facilities for years to come. Well maintained infrastructure is key to allowing a wide range of businesses to succeed.
The £1 million Small Scale Coastal Infrastructure Scheme will be made available to all Port Authorities and Local Authorities around Wales to apply for grants of up to £100,000 for capital investment. This scheme will provide targeted environmental, operational, safety and security benefits for all users of Welsh ports and harbours by improving the overall performance, sustainability, safety and well-being of industries and the general public.
In addition to the support packages outlined above, the remaining European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will be targeted towards Covid-19 recovery offering opportunities for fishers to add value to catch as well as processing and marketing of products. This will be administered through an ‘Expression of Interest’ application grant scheme. The new approach to the programme funds is expected to start in June 2021 and Rural Payment Wales will issue details with specific selection criteria in due course.