The government is not planning to use funds from the £100m UK Seafood Fund to help the industry cope with rocketing fuel prices, reports Tim Oliver.

This was spelled out last week by Defra fisheries minister Lord Benyon in the House of Lords (pictured above).

Asked by Lord Teverson ‘what steps the government will take to assist the under-10m fishing sector in meeting its increased fuel costs’, the minister said Defra will continue to support the fishing sector through the £100m Seafood Fund.

“The government has shown long-term commitment to the sector and will continue to do so in the future,” said Lord Benyon.

“As part of this long-term commitment, we are not planning to repurpose funds to mitigate the impacts of high fuel prices. We consider this is a cross-cutting issue, and so are liaising with colleagues across government to determine the longer-term impacts and any mitigating actions.”

He acknowledged that the increasing cost of fuel is affecting a wide range of sectors including the fishing industry, and that vessels of all sizes are being affected.

“Our primary focus is on analysing how the UK fleet is being affected by fuel and fish prices. Defra ministers and officials are working with colleagues across government, along with a wide range of stakeholders, and are closely monitoring the situation,” he told the Lords.

He said one of the main objectives of the £100m UK Seafood Fund is to increase the sustainability of the sector, including through investing in the transition to renewable energy.

Defra is also making £32.7m in annual funding available across all four nations of the UK, which last year enabled grant schemes to be opened in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, he said.

The grant scheme for England, the Fisheries and Seafood Scheme, provides ‘a wide range of support aimed at fishing vessels, with enhanced funding rates of up to 80% made available to members of the small-scale coastal fleet’.

The minister added: “In recognition of the challenges in the maritime sector, including the fishing industry, in the 2022 Spring Budget the chancellor overturned the 2020 announcement to remove the red diesel entitlement for commercial boat operators, meaning the industry can continue to use red diesel, in addition to the Marine Voyages Relief, which gives 100% relief on fuel duty costs.”

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

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