Nineteen fishing vessels from south east Scotland have received £281,000 from the Scottish Government’s hardship fund.
Many of their businesses came under severe financial pressure last year because of the poor catch rates of white fish and prawns and last week over 100 grants were paid out to Scottish fishermen, 19 of them in the south east of the country, including Eyemouth - a total of £1.9 million.
Following consultation with industry representatives, the Government agreed to make payments to vessels that failed in 2013 to achieve a net profit of £17,000.
Payments were made to increase vessels profit to this level, up to a maximum of the £24,714 allowed under the EU’s State Aid rules.
Mr 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 costal jobs across Scotland.
“These awards will help those experiencing substantial hardship to remain viable. The money can be used towards the costs of new or repaired sets of gear along with some minor maintenance work or costs in maintaining lifesaving equipment.”
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said: “This assistance was fought for by the industry and agreed by Scottish Government and we are very pleased to see the hardship scheme becoming a reality. It is specifically targeted at boats with a viable future but who need some short term help in the face of challenges outside anyone’s control - an investment for a sustainable future.”
By May last year it was obvious that Eyemouth’s prawn fishing fleet was struggling. Eyemouth Harbour Trust confirmed a downturn in landing dues this year, and Eyemouth prawn fisherman Alan Blackie reported catches down by 30% on the previous year.
Marine Scotland confirmed that in the first four months of 2013 prawn landings were at an 11-year low, particularly at the North Sea Fladens fishing ground - scientists suspecting the unusually low water temperatures, but fishermen blaming both the water temperature and the abundance of cod, which feed on the prawns.