Coronavirus: Support package for fishing industry

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fishing boats

The executive has agreed a support package for the Northern Ireland fishing industry to help it cope with the coronvarius crisis.

Many boats have been tied up to comply with social distancing rules and export markets have been badly hit by the virus.

Now £1.5m is to be made available over the next three months.

It will be paid to skippers to cover fixed costs like insurance and equipment rental.

Monthly payments range from about £1,000 to £4,500, depending on the size of the vessel.

'Lifeline to trawler owners'

Alan McCulla of Sea Source in Kilkeel described it as a "lifeline to local trawler owners".

He said it was more generous than similar packages in other parts of the UK.

Many crew will be able to avail of government support for self-employed workers and other assistance.

Earlier this week, representatives of the industry said a support package was badly needed, as incomes had dried up, export sales had fallen while bills kept coming.

In order to qualify for assistance fishing vessels must be registered in Northern Ireland and have had fish landings of at least £10,000 in 2019.

They must also be available to fish if there's a market for their produce with the authorities stressing that this is not a "tie-up" scheme.

Harry Wick of the Northern Ireland Fish Producers' Organisation welcomed the Executive's support in "what is a challenging time for the local fishing industry".

It is expected the first of the payments will be made in May.