Aquaculture for all

UK Fishermen's Federations Meet Fisheries over Fuel

UK - A joint delegation from the Scottish Fishermens Federation and the English based National Federation of Fishermens Organisations will meet UK fisheries minister Jonathan Shaw today (3 June).

The urgent meeting comes on the back of huge concern and frustration across the whole UK fishing industry over the price of fuel, which is threatening the very viability of the fleet and putting fragile fishing communities at risk.

Fuel costs have increased by 100 per cent over the past year, with 40% of this rise occurring over the past five months. Fuel now accounts for 30 per cent to 50 per cent of the costs of a typical fishing trip. In monetary terms, a 10 day trip to the Rockall fishing grounds by an Orkney based vessel would cost in the region of £26,000 to £28,000.

Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive says: "Significant portions of the fleet now have their very survival threatened. Uniquely, the fishing industry is unable to pass on the extra costs of fuel because fish is sold mostly via an auction system, whilst at the same time extra costs are being passed onto us from industries servicing the fishing industry.

"The fishing industry is unique in another way: we have a responsibility to harvest the quota allocated to the UK – a national asset. We have worked very hard and with considerable sacrifice to make this asset sustainable through an intense programme of conservation measures. For example, in Scotland two decommissioning schemes in 2001 and 2003 have removed 65% of the capacity of the white fish fleet. To allow an uncontrolled collapse under the weight of fuel costs of sections of the industry would not be in the national interest."

At the meeting, the industry will be calling for immediate short-term aid to ensure industry survival followed by the development of a medium to long term strategy to enable the industry to adjust to the high price of fuel.

Mr Armstrong said: "In the immediate bracket, we are calling for a package similar to that already given to the other two European main fishing member states, France and Spain, of at least the EU de minimis support of 30,000 Euros per boat over a three year period.

"For the medium term we need a comprehensive package of fuel efficiency measures to ensure fleet survival.

"For the Scottish fleet, talking began on 7 May with the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for fisheries Richard Lochhead, who has set up a task force to advise him on the matter.

"This must now result in immediate action, starting with the de minimis payment. There is no reason why this cannot be achieved and we note that the Scottish Government has already underwritten fuel costs for ferry operator CalMac.

"We have also noted with approval the importance placed by the Scottish Government on fishing – but such support is totally meaningless unless it is backed-up by immediate action in support of an industry that is threatened by dramatically increased and sustained fuel prices."

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