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Fisheries Minister Edwin Poots has announced a substantial £1.5 million support package for Northern Ireland’s fishing industry.

The financial scheme has been announced to help prop up the fishing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, after social distancing measures and the collapse of the European and domestic fish markets have made trading virtually impossible.

Minister Poots said: “Northern Ireland’s fishing industry has faced extreme difficulties as a result of COVID-19 and is in urgent need of our support to ensure we have a profitable fishing industry to return to, once COVID-19 subsides.

“I have therefore announced a £1.5 million support package to help the fishing industry weather the storm. The scheme I’ve announced is the most far-reaching in the UK and will help the fishing fleet to cover their fixed costs for three months. It’s not an answer to everyone’s problems, but it will certainly help the fleet survive what has been one of its most difficult periods.”

The assistance will be for three months with a maximum amount of total funding per ‘undertaking’ capped at around £104,000. It will be delivered via monthly payments varying with vessel size as below:

Vessel overall length (metres) Monthly payment (£)

  • 0-10 - £1,050
  • 10.01-11.99 - £1,800
  • 12.00-14.99 - £3,550
  • 15 and over - £4,550

The following conditions apply:

  • The vessel must be a fishing vessel registered in NI
  • The vessel must normally be active during the period March to May
  • The vessel must have had fish landings of at least £10,000 in 2019
  • Vessels of overall length 28m and over are not eligible
  • The vessels must be available to fish if there is a market for their product (i.e. this is not a “tie-up” scheme)

The Department will inform vessel owners in due course about how to apply for the scheme and provide further details including appeals. It is anticipated that the first payments would be made early in May 2020.

The Department is aware that the EU intends to further amend the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to give additional support to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in response to COVID-19. The details of these changes will be considered by the Department as they emerge and industry will be consulted.