Struggling fisherman offered grant money

STRUGGLING fisherman along the East Anglian coast have been given the chance to access millions of pounds of European funding.

The 4.6million Euros is being made available to small communities across England which rely on fishing to provide employment.

However one Suffolk fisherman has said whilst the money is to be welcomed, the reality is many small vessels are faced with being out of work until the autumn due to restrictions on Dover Sole catches.

The Axis 4 European Fisheries Fund project, being run by the Marine Management Organisation, was set up to promote the sustainable development of fisheries in smaller communities.

Applicants have to provide detailed business plans showing they have a clear understanding of the issues and opportunities facing their industry and how they will promote sustainable fishing in their area.

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The fishermen will have to show data that their catches have been in decline, how they are reducing waste and lessening the environmental impact of their work.

If they get through the first round, there will then be a second stage where they are invited to form a fisheries local action group for their area, potentially opening up more funding.

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But Dean Fryer, of the Aldeburgh Fishermen’s Trade Guild, said the best help for under-10 metre boats would be an exemtion from the quota system.

“We are always having to upgrade things in the sheds because of health and safety, so any grant the helps us with that sort of stuff is welcome.

“The grants are helpful but they are not going to keep all the fishermen employed especially if the sole ban does come in during the next week or two.

“We can catch our quotas in a couple of days, so we are having to take less gear and are still having to put 65% of the sole back into the water.”

Clive Mills, vice-chairman of the West Mersea Fishermen’s Association, said it was vital for the small fishing boat fleet to stay afloat.

He said previously: “We are at the heart of coastal communities and we are what the public want to see – they want British fish caught from our waters.”

The EADT revealed in April how the entire fleet of small fishing boats along the coast of East Anglia was “on the verge of collapse” due to severe problems with the system of quotas.

Operations from Lowestoft to West Mersea and beyond could go out of business because they are filling their Government-designated monthly amounts within days of the start of the month.

And the situation is particularly bad this year because fishermen have not been able to swap their allocations of unwanted quotas, such as prawns, with other countries like Germany as a way of increasing what they can catch.

The European Fisheries Fund has made about �38 million available to England between 2007and 2013 to help the industry adapt to changing needs.

A Marine Management Organisation spokeswoman said: “The EFF grants scheme is competitive and only projects which most effectively meet the aims of the scheme will be awarded a grant.”

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