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Covid-19: Top questions 01.05.2020

In these challenging times, our teams have been receiving a high volume of queries from clients in the fishing industry about the impact of Covid-19 and key issues such as grant funding shemes and the current picture around fisheries management and enforcement.

To help our clients in the fishing sector, Andrew Oliver, head of our marine and fisheries team has collated his most frequently asked questions from this week, with his responses, in the hope that this information is useful to you. Each week, we publish an article with a new set of questions from the week but if you have any queries, at any time, please talk to the team for more detailed advice that is specific to you and your business.

 

Is help available to the fishing industry from the government?

Yes, the government have committed to a range of support options for industry, specifically for fisheries. They have established a £10m fund for England’s Fishing and aquaculture sectors. This breaks down to:

  • £9m in grants available to eligible seafood and aquaculture businesses
  • £1m to assist fishers in selling their catch to local communities

What are some of the key details of this funding scheme?

The funding has been made available for three months, April to June and is open to under 24m vessels. The size of grants will be based on average business costs for the size of the vessel, based on annual industry surveys, and the vessel’s previous fishing returns. Owners will be contacted directly by the MMO with application forms.

Are there any issues or challenges with the scheme?

There are widespread concerns in the industry that the MMO’s information is not always statistically accurate. It often seems the case that the MMO’s interpretation of fishing returns leads to inaccuracies. This is a concern that they have acknowledged as an organisation themselves, and they admitted that they have previously used inaccuracies in data as the rationale for the introduction of the catch app for under 10m vessels. Understandably, this has led to a lack of trust from the industry.

Can the MMO and IFCA’s still investigate and carry on enforcement duties in the lockdown?

Yes, we can confirm that these investigations and enforcements are being carried out as normal. Subject to guidance on appropriate social distancing, they can continue to board vessels and carry out inspections at sea and ashore. Any interference with this could be regarded as an offence of failing to co-operate or even obstruction.

Can I refuse to be interviewed by the MMO and/or the IFCAs during the lockdown?

Yes, of course you can but there are alternatives that may be offered to you such as written questionnaires. If you fail to answer or attend an interview the courts will still be able to draw inferences from your non-attendance or co-operation, subject to any sensible arguments you may have regarding lockdown preventing you from co-operating. If you are unsure of your legal position or obligations, it is always best to check with a legal advisor before taking a course of action that may have repercussions further down the line.

 

Our team is on hand to help you, your business and your family however we can, so please get in touch with us on 01482 325242 or email enquiries@andrewjackson.co.uk

Correct as of 2pm on 01.05.2020

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