Coronavirus: fisheries

Published 07/05/2020   |   Last Updated 27/05/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

The Welsh Government reports that fishing and aquaculture businesses in Wales have been ‘hit especially hard’ by the impacts of COVID-19, in particular due to the closure of export and domestic markets. On 14 April 2020 it announced the Welsh Fisheries Grant to support the industry in Wales.

Support available

The Welsh Government said that:

The COVID-19 public health crisis is having a significant detrimental impact across the Welsh seafood industry. The sector is facing an immediate and acute problem with the collapse of export and hospitality markets as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as lost revenues and income from being unable to work due to associated illness.

There is a range of support available for businesses struggling due to COVID-19. However, the Welsh Government has recognised that many may not be applicable to fishing businesses in Wales, saying that:

Existing support for the wider business sector is often based on factors such as the rateable value of fixed premises, or the amount of members of staff employed – but these often don’t apply to fishing businesses.

In recognition of this, on 14 April 2020 the Welsh Government announced a new grant to support the fishing and aquaculture industries. It also produced guidance for them, including information on general business and welfare support.

Welsh fishing industry grant

The Welsh Government’s COVID-19 fishing industry grant is targeted at vessel-owning fishing businesses. It is designed to support businesses with help to ‘cover fixed costs associated with owning a fishing vessel’. The grant is based on the size of vessel owned, with a maximum payment of £10,000 ‘to ensure synergies with the Economic Resilience Fund’ (ERF). The grant is open to all active seafood businesses with Welsh-licenced vessels up to 40 metres in length and recorded sales of £10,000 or more in 2019. All eligible fishers will be provided with a one-off payment.

The Welsh Government asked eligible fishers to register online with Rural Payments Wales (RPW), through which they may make applications to the grant fund. The Welsh Government has produced a guidance document, which outlines eligibility and the application process in more detail. The online application window opened on 23 April 2020. Completed applications must be submitted no later than 31 May 2020, but this date is subject to review. The guidance highlights the timescale between application and payment:

Once received, completed applications will be reviewed and, subject to all the necessary checks, the Grant payment will be made. It is expected that the payment process is likely to take approximately 10 working days from receipt of a complete online application form. Support will be available for those who require digital assistance, but payment through this method is likely to take longer.

The Welsh Government also produced a ‘how to complete your application’ guide for businesses making their applications. This highlights that if the applicant employs anyone on a PAYE basis and is VAT registered, they may be eligible for the ERF. If the applicant is eligible for the ERF, they must claim support from the ERF rather than the Welsh Fisheries Grant.

Efforts to boost the domestic market

In March 2020 the UK Government launched the British seafood marketing campaign “Sea for yourself”. It is supported by the non-departmental public body Seafish. The campaign is being promoted on Seafish’s Fish is the dish website, where a map of businesses offering online deliveries is available. The campaign was planned before the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Seafish has said that it is:

…continuing with the campaign to highlight the healthy and great tasting seafood caught and landed in the UK. It’s not designed to solve all of the problems the seafood industry is facing. But we hope that offering guidance and support on buying, cooking and eating local seafood will help increase consumer confidence around species they aren’t familiar with.

The Welsh Government’s guidance for Welsh fishers highlights another ongoing project to boost domestic consumption of Welsh seafood; the Port to Plate Project. This project aims to promote Welsh Seafood products to enhance the reputation and market opportunity for the Welsh Seafood Industry, encouraging an increase in Welsh seafood business growth across the supply chain.

Seafish has also produced a guide to selling seafood direct to consumers, and has secured changes to enforcement of labelling regulations for seafood, with the aim of boosting seafood trade. Further information on this was not readily available at time of writing.

Additional support

Welsh Government guidance highlights that fishing business employees, as food production workers, are listed as key workers and may therefore receive additional benefits such as prioritised education provision for their children. They may also have access to COVID-19 testing.

Non-governmental organisations have also been making grants available to fishing businesses in the UK. As the application windows for these can be short, links have been provided at the end of this briefing to webpages where such grants are routinely advertised.

Additional information

Illegal fishing activities

On 28 April 2020, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) issued a press release to highlight that patrols to deter illegal fishing are still taking place during lockdown in Wales. The statement encourages the public to report illegal fishing activities.

Links to further information

Article by Emily Williams, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament

We’ve published a range of material on the coronavirus pandemic, including a post setting out the help and guidance available for people in Wales and a timeline of Welsh and UK governments’ response.

You can see all our coronavirus-related publications by clicking here. All are updated regularly.