With a new funding round of the government’s Fisheries and Seafood Scheme (FaSS) now open for applications, Rachael Harper talks to Imogen Smith-Devey, who has been working as a fishing animateur for 18 months, about how the project can help you secure funding…

FN: What is Fishing Animateur?

Imogen Smith-Devey: “It was born 10 years ago in Cornwall, and then three years ago, it developed into what it is now, working all across the UK.

“Fishing Animateur was set up after the ‘Fishing for a Future’ report, commissioned by The Seafarers’ Charity, was undertaken to look at challenges in the fishing industry. It found that 66% of ports with significant landings were in deprived areas, and it became quite clear that we needed to expand our work to cover more of England.

“So, as of today, we’re a team of three, and we help fishermen access Marine Management Organisation (MMO) grant funding across England. We don’t have a formal relationship with the MMO, we’re completely separate – we just help people go through the system.”

What funding is Fishing Animateur focusing on at the moment?

“The funding round at the moment is called the Fisheries and Seafood Scheme. There’s funding available for all sorts of things. We mostly help under-12m boats to apply for health and safety projects, or projects to improve crew comfort and working conditions, or to help people add value to their catch.”

What do I need to do to apply for funding?

“To put in your application, a fisher would ordinarily need to write out a form, as well as upload accounts, or if you’re new, you need to do a cashflow forecast, as well as find quotes for the work and put that all into the form as well. We help people find quotes and work out their cashflow forecast. Then we write the application and submit it for them.”

At what stage should I get in touch with the Fishing Animateur about my project?

“Any stage. So usually we have people with just a project idea. People can send us a text message or give us a phone call, and we’ll get back in contact with them and help to explain the process. They can text their address or email address to our phone number, and we can send over all the details, and arrange a phone call or a meeting over Zoom.”

Should I have anything prepared before getting in touch?

“You don’t need anything to hand, other than an idea of something you need funding for. We can help work out if it’s eligible, if it’s suitable, and we’ll explain to you the ways of moving forward.”

What makes Fishing Animateur different?

“The Fishing Animateur project is made up of a small team, with a diverse skillset. We are able to work with big projects like developing harbourside infrastructure, to smaller projects, such as installing a fish- skinning machine in a processing unit. We try our best to help whoever we can by tailoring our approach to suit the needs of the fisher, and to remove the barriers that fishers experience when trying to access these funds.”

Is Fishing Animateur able to help with all project ideas?

“We’re under no obligation to support projects that we feel are not viable, appropriate or safe. Also, the team is small and there may be a capacity issue. We may be able to offer you telephone advice, but we can only deal with a limited number of projects at any one time.”

What kind of projects has Fishing Animateur been helping with?

“We’ve been doing lots of small health and safety projects that make a big difference. Lots of things we’re seeing are helping to prevent a man-overboard scenario – so helping people install non-slip decking, for example, or safety railings. Also, we have helped people apply for net clearers and net bins to improve organisation on deck.

“Also, projects to help people add value to their catch. So maybe some small processing equipment like a vacuum pack if they want to sell to the public, or perhaps ice tubs to keep the fish as fresh as possible on the boat.

“We have also helped with funding for harbourside equipment, such as davits and beach tractors.”

How long do I have to apply to the Fisheries and Seafood Scheme?

“This funding round is coming to an end in March. We’re hoping to see more, but if we’re going to start projects, we need to be working on them as soon as possible to get them done over the winter.”

How long might it take before my funding comes through?

“Once it’s with us, it can take maybe a month to put an application together. Then once it’s in the system with the MMO, it can take eight weeks to get an offer letter. Once you get an offer letter, you can then buy your items and claim the money back.

“If there’s an issue for fishers with bankrolling the project, with the help of The Seafarers’ Charity there is now a credit union available to help fishers save, and finance their projects. We can help with access to that as well. It’s a real game- changer.”

How much will Fishing Animateur’s service cost me?

“Fishing Animateur’s services are free, but they are limited to projects below £100,000-worth of grant. The grant rate can be up to 80% if you are a static boat, 50% if you use towed gear, or 75% for POs or fishermen’s associations.

“None of our work would be possible to deliver without the financial support of The Fishmongers’ Company, The Seafarers’ Charity and Trinity House.”

How can I get in touch with Fishing Animateur?

“You can fill out a form via our website here or you can call: 01736 362782 to leave a message about your project idea. Alternatively, text: 07534 580450 with your name, size of vessel and what you want to do, or email: fishing@cornwallrcc.org.uk.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here. (Photo provided by Fishing Animateur).

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