Red tape hindering help for fishermen

Richard Drax

Richard Drax

First published in Lyme Regis Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Photograph of the Author by

A DORSET MP says he is facing a blizzard of red tape in a bid to get compensation for fishermen affected by the winter storms.

Local fishermen have faced hardship with some unable to go to sea for months and many having their fishing equipment damaged in the severe weather.

As reported in the Bridport and Lyme Regis News, South West Inshore Fishermen’s Association vice-chairman Chris Wason from Lyme Regis said the storms had had an ‘horrendous’ impact on every fisherman.

After fishermen raised their concerns to him, South Dorset MP Richard Drax has been investigating and tried to ask a question in Parliament.

Mr Drax said: “These fishermen are suffering. Their incomes have totally collapsed and they have gone through savings and overdrafts.

“As small businessmen, they have nowhere to turn for help.

“In addition, many have lost their kit and some have even seen their boats destroyed.”

Mr Drax said there had been a ‘ridiculous situation’ where claimants hoping for help have been passed from ‘pillar to post’ only to be told that the Business Support Scheme will pay out only for flooded premises.

Another fund is available, he said, but it requires boats to have been registered more than five years ago and that loans taken out to buy replacement equipment will not be paid back.

He said: “The rules governing the other fund – the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), which is managed by the Maritime Management Organisation (MMO) – are even more arcane.

“Fishermen may apply for replacement of lost or damaged kit, as long as they registered their fishing boat more than five years ago.

“If your boat is newer than that, even if you have been fishing for 50 years, you are out of luck. The rules are completely inflexible and in my view, incomprehensible.

“If you are fortunate enough to have registered your boat more than five years ago, you can apply to the MMO/EFF for 60 per cent of the value of the equipment lost.

“It can take 10 weeks for approval.

“Yet if you get a loan and buy the equipment yourself in order to get back to work, EFF will not pay for it.

“You just have to wait, thereby losing even more income.

“It is a Catch-22.

“No matter where they turn, these fishermen can’t win.

‘What matters is that with every day that passes, the fishermen are in more difficulties.

“And I believe we are letting them down.

“I will continue to look into this but I have been told by the minister that I am up against EU bureaucracy and the chance of these rules being changed is small.”

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