Life for Berwickshire’s remaining prawn fishing fleet has been far from easy in recent years but help may be on hand from the Scottish Government.
Last week Scotland’s Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead announced an action plan for prawn and white fisheries - including a £3 million hardship fund.
High fuel prices, fishing quotas and the EU Cod Recovery Plan have put pressure on Berwickshire fishermen and a 30 per cent drop in the number of prawns being caught this year has added to their woes.
After a series of ‘quayside’ conversations across Scotland (the first of which was held in Eyemouth in October) Marine Conservation managers and Scottish Government ministers seem to have taken on board what fishermen have been telling them
As a result, a £6 million, five-point action plan has been drawn up: a £3 million hardship fund for fishermen facing exceptional stresses on their viability; an invitation to vessels to trial a discard-free prawn fishery this year by fishing with gears that eliminate whitefish by-catch (vessels will have additional time at sea to catch their quotas where necessary, and European funding is being sought to give them a guaranteed income).
Vessels not joining the discard free trial will be given help to develop new fishing gears and measures to reduce the amount of fish being caught which they have to dump; barriers preventing fishermen diversifying into alternative sustainable fisheries will be removed; and efforts will be made to promote the country’s seafood sector.
Local fishermen have yet to be given the details of the plan and until they know the finer points are unable to comment on how much it will help them.
Richard Lochhead, said: “The fishing industry is very important to Scotland’s economy and contributed £500 million last year. It is the lifeblood of many local communities supporting over 5,000 coastal jobs across Scotland.
“Issues such as volatile international markets and environmental factors such as a scarcity of prawns appearing on the grounds have meant many fishermen have been experiencing exceptionally tough times.
“The Scottish Government wants to support our fishing industry and their communities. We also want to help fishermen adapt to a future where they will no longer discard any of their catch.”