Fishermen in Wales struggling after storms, warns industry

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Media captionCalls have been made for an emergency fund to be set up to help struggling fishermen

Fishermen say the severe winter has hit their business hard amid warnings the industry is on a precipice.

Their association is calling for financial help while wholesalers who sell the catches say they are also facing cash worries.

Some fishermen have told BBC Wales they have been unable to work in the last two months because of ruined equipment.

The industry employs around 1,900 people in full and part-time jobs and is worth £20m to the Welsh economy.

The Welsh government said it was waiting to hear if extra funding for flood damage from the UK government would come to Wales.

'Last straw'

The New Under Ten Fishermen's Association, which supports those fishing with boats under 10m, said the recent severe weather had meant fishermen had not been able to land fish before Christmas, losing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"The industry is on the edge of a precipice," said chief executive Jeremy Percy.

"It's not exactly hand-to-mouth, but it certainly doesn't have a lot of flexibility in financial terms.

"Most of the product in Wales goes abroad and fishermen were already struggling as those markets declined last year and prices were down.

"On top of that all these storms [have been] damaging equipment all around the Welsh coast. This could be the last straw."

He said fishermen in England could access funds from a business support scheme which helps with the impact of severe weather.

Image caption Some fishermen are unable to get insurance cover

The £10m fund is from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

In Wales, the Welsh government said it had already announced £1.6m to support tourism infrastructure but no money had yet been set aside for fishermen.

Mr Percy said: "This is far and above beyond the normal problems we have with the weather and I think it's beholden on the Welsh government to take this one very seriously and focus particularly on the industry."

Fisherman Dean Parry, of Dean's Fresh Fish in Aberystwyth, said his business was at a standstill.

He said he had not been able to make a living from fishing for at least two months and he had to find wages for two crew members.

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Media captionCalls have been made for an emergency fund to be set up to help storm-hit fishermen

Mr Parry is also worried the severe weather would take its toll on his equipment.

"We're going to lose a lot of gear," he said. "It's tens of thousands of pounds worth. That's not lost income that's lost equipment."

He said fishermen were unable to buy insurance cover for their equipment or pots in which they catch shellfish, such as lobster and spider crabs.

'Fighting to survive'

"I think you'll see a lot of fishermen that were here last year but will not be here next year because a lot of fishermen aren't lucky enough to be able to take this," he said.

Skip Rudder, owner of Castle Bay Seafoods in Pembrokeshire, which buys live shellfish from local fishermen for export to France and Spain, said the industry was "fighting to survive".

"We are literally waiting for the fishermen to be able to catch product. Until they do we are on stop," he said.

"This is extremely unusual what has happened here. I mean it's once every 50 to 60 years probably.

"There should be some sort of contingency plan as there is in agriculture to help the whole community as many people rely on the coastal areas."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We recognise that the recent bad weather has been difficult for a range of sectors, including the fishing industry.

"While the UK government has announced that businesses affected by flooding may be entitled to support, we are still waiting to hear the detail of this and whether there will be any consequential funding for Wales.

"In the meantime, we are continuing to talk to fishermen right across Wales to understand the impact of the bad weather on their business."

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