Help needed to attract new entrants

England’s young fishermen say they need financial help to buy boats and to encourage new entrants to the industry, similar to the help-to-buy scheme launched in Scotland at the end of April, reports Tim Oliver.

The one-year Scottish scheme is financed through the £14m Marine Fund Scotland (MFS) and enables young fishermen or new entrants under 40 to apply for up to 75% of the cost of buying a second-hand vessel of up to 16m, or up to 50% of the cost of a vessel from 16-24m.

Duncan MacInnes, chairman of the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association (WIFA), explained on the Fathom podcast, broadcast by the Cornish FPO, how the scheme is working in Scotland, and the support the local industry gets from its local authority.

He also pointed out that the costs of a licence and quota could double the cost of a boat, and explained how a local community quota pool also helps young fishermen.

After hearing his comments, a member of the CFPO Youth Board, Joel Dunn, said a similar scheme in England would ‘definitely work’, and would help with the natural progression of the industry.

“If we follow suit like the Scots have done and we get help with quota, that would help young fishermen currently in the industry to progress to an over-10m boat, because that’s the barrier you run into,” he said.

“Help with quota, a pool you could lease from, that makes a way for the next generation to come up through.”

He said one of the biggest problems facing the industry is the lack of crew. “If there’s nothing to aspire to, to become a skipper/owner of a boat, I think we’re in for a big struggle.

“We need to have a natural progression in the industry, and if you haven’t got that, it’s all a bit stagnant. I look forward to seeing what happens, and hopefully we will get some funding to try and bring some more young fishermen into the industry – that’s what it needs.”

Local authority

The need for support from local authorities was also highlighted. Joel Dunn said Cornwall had been ‘in the limelight’ recently, and the Cornish fishing industry had helped tourism – ‘it would be nice to see support back from the council and other local authorities’.

Podcast presenter Chris Ranford said the fishing industry clearly had a much greater value to Cornwall than just the value of fish landings.

He said: “To have some local authority support to keep the industry alive here and keep it progressing is going to be really important to supporting that wider economic benefit, and keeping young fishermen in the industry and helping them to progress.”

Duncan MacInnes explained there had been a history of support of the Western Isles industry from the local authority and the Royal Bank of Scotland in the form of a 50% loan to new entrants to buy a boat and licence and loan guarantees.

There had been a joint consultative committee between the fishing industry and local council since the mid-1970s when the local authority was established, recognising the importance of fishing to local communities.

Discussing the new Scottish help- to-buy scheme, Duncan MacInnes said the money has to be spent before the end of March next year. Although the scheme offers ‘up to’ 75% of the cost of a second-hand under-16m boat, he said that did not necessarily mean 75% would be offered. “My view is that if they get 50%, they’re doing very well,” he said.

He added that the percentage of grant offered was higher for less expensive boats and tended to reduce for more expensive boats, and that multi-purpose vessels were more difficult to fund than single-method boats.

One of the vessels the local industry was trying to buy costs £250,000, and ‘if we secure 50% or even 60% of £250,000, we’ll do very well’.

Seven local fishermen were applying for support through the scheme, he said.

Another problem was that the banks won’t provide bridging loans to buy licences and quotas until the boat grant is paid. The WIFA is currently discussing with the local authority the possibility of the authority providing a bridging loan, but ‘we haven’t signed that off yet – like any new scheme, there are some barriers to overcome’.

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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