Fresh calls have been made to the Scottish and UK Governments to help breath new life into the ailing fishing industry within the Ayr district.
Fairer quotas, investment in vessels and better infrastructure in shoreside processing facilities, are among a raft of solutions needed to aid the sector in Ayrshire.
The value of fish landings within the Ayr district, which is spearheaded by the major Port of Troon, fell by a massive 33 per cent to £9 million last year. And the tonnage fell by 26 per cent to 3.7 million.
It prompted fears by top economist, Tony Mackay, that some fishermen in the Ayr district fishing fleet would leave the industry altogether because the current situation is so bleak.
Now a new appeal has been issued from Elaine Whyte, executive secretary of the Clyde Coast Fishermen’s Association, to the governments to do more to tackle the fishing crisis.
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She said: “We definitely need investment in boats to make them safe. We also need shoreside investment in processing facilities and marketing work to develop new potential sustainable fisheries and markets.
“We also very much need Governments to consider the allocation of quota across the country, in a fair way, which allows communities in the Clyde to sustainably fish and be able to make a living.
“The opportunities for the Clyde and the Ayrshire fleet exists if policies and national funding schemes can see the potential in the area to support sustainable fishing, as has been the case in other regions.
“We appreciate that capacity is low in the Clyde at the moment but poor facilities, lack of crew and lack of opportunities to diversify, are highlighting the time critical nature of the need for support.
“We hope that we can work with our fishing communities and government to turn this situation around and make the future a bright and sustainable one for Ayrshire and Clyde fishing.”
She added: “The issue of Covid and Brexit coming at the same time didn’t only hit the market, it also saw non UK crew return home to their country of origin to be with family during lockdown, or because they were not confident of settled status, or visas, to work.
“This, in turn, has resulted in a loss of crew and staff throughout the fishing industry, on the boats at sea, in the processing factories and, of course, in the lorries to transport the product.
“With good policies, fishing can offer fantastic opportunities to new entrants, the potential is significant, but the will is needed to deliver.”
It’s widely accepted that historic changes to fishing quotas, increased regulation, changes in market fluctuations; environmental pressures, people’s taste preferences, Brexit and now the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, have all played a part.
A Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) spokesperson said the Scottish fishing industry had received £14m funding- with another £23m being pumped in via the Seafood Disruption and Support Scheme.
And the total figure was “equivalent” to the average annual EMFF (European Maritime and Fisheries Fund) funding during 2021.
The spokesperson also said more funding was on the way to improve “sustainability.”
They continued: “In addition to replacing EMFF funds, we have provided up to £23 million to help seafood businesses affected by the impacts of Covid-19.
“We have also announced the first sum of funding from the £100m UK Seafood Fund which will see £24 million go towards science and innovation to support world-class research to improve the productivity and long-term sustainability of the industry.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Fishing is a vital part of Scotland’s food and drink industry, which is why as an immediate response to the pandemic we set up hardship schemes and paid out £8.4 million to more than 900 shellfish vessels to help protect jobs in coastal communities.
“The shellfish sector, of which Troon is a key port, was hit particularly hard by Covid and saw markets essentially close for periods and this is a significant factor in landing statistics.
“Following the damaging last minute Brexit deal, in February we also announced a £7.75 million package to help fishers, aquaculture businesses and ports and harbours facing export trade issues and additional costs.
“Despite the continued challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit, we are continuing to support the sector’s recovery, with marine industries and seafood sectors able to apply for the £14 million Marine Fund Scotland, and funding already paid out to help young fishers invest in equipment, and seafood businesses access new markets within the UK and abroad.
“We also provided funding to supply around 100 defibrillators on Scottish fishing vessels, demonstrating our wide-ranging support for one of Scotland’s most iconic industries.”
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