Marc Evans, the Fishermen’s Mission chief executive, met fisheries minister Mark Spencer last week to discuss the changing role that the Mission is taking on to support fishermen, many of whom have never previously sought help.

Whilst many of its traditional support services are still required – including laundry facilities, WiFi and crew rooms to relax in when tied up in a port away from home – demand in recent years has grown hugely in other areas, and from fishermen who in the past would never have dreamed of seeking support.

Marc Evans said: “The minister listened carefully as we described the many challenges and issues that ‘Fish Mish’ staff see our fishermen attempt to cope with on a day to day basis, from cost of living pressures to the associated costs of running a viable business, balancing fragile revenue streams with escalating costs.

“Our conversation focused heavily on the minister’s recognition of the various pressures on fishermen’s mental health and well-being – issues he acknowledged as being common to the agriculture sector, and which I and my opposite number in the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute are keen to highlight as being prevalent throughout the rural communities we both support.

“He also raised the pollack TAC issue, which is high on his current agenda and one that he recognised as generating an additional pressure in that part of the catching sector.

“The minister also acknowledged the concerns of many regarding the introduction of compulsory medical certification and the increased minimum wage for migrant fishermen transitioning to skilled worker visas. While unable to offer any assurances, he did confirm that he and the new secretary of state were engaged with their colleagues in the Department for Transport and the Home Office about this.”

Also raised was a further concern that the charity sector was necessarily acting as the agitator for improved services from the public sector. Marc Evans explained how SeaFit, delivered in association with the Seafarer’s Hospital Society, was one avenue by which the charity was trying to plug part of the healthcare inequalities gap that fishermen and their families were suffering from up and down the country.

“I found the minister to be well briefed, receptive and empathetic to the issues discussed, and I am pleased we agreed a follow-up for the new year where we can have a deeper discussion with him about ongoing welfare and mental health issues across rural communities.”

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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