A SPECIAL fund has been launched today to help Scottish creel fishermen badly affected by the exceptional winter weather.
Many creel fishermen have been financially affected due to a reduction in their catches and a loss of fishing gear because of the extreme weather conditions in recent months.
£400,000 has now been made available by the Scottish Government to contribute towards easing the financial pressures faced.
Alistair Sinclair of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation welcomed the funding aid. He said: “The creation of this fund will assist beleaguered fishermen who have suffered severe losses over the past two winters.
“Many of these guys are the lifeblood of small rural communities and this display of support from the Scottish Government must be recognised as acknowledgement of their importance around the Scottish coastline.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The creel sector and the inshore fishing industry generally is very important to many of Scotland’s most fragile coastal communities in helping to sustain employment and maintaining and enhancing an important part of our national heritage.
“This announcement follows a fund that was established last summer for whitefish and prawn fishermen. The Scottish Government wants to support our inshore fishing industry and their communities and help those experiencing genuine hardship.”
He added: “Over the next few days Marine Scotland will be writing to all creel fishermen to alert them to this new fund.”
Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Secretary, said: “The inshore fishing industry is very important to Scotland’s economy and the value of the catch in 2012 was £87 million.
“However, the real value is often in the wider socio-economic benefits generated in communities around our coast; helping support schools and other local services, often in the most remote and fragile parts of the country.”
He continued: “This section of our fishing industry is facing exceptionally tough times and the Scottish Government wants to support them and their communities as they seek to overcome these challenges.
“My officials and I will continue to work with the industry to discuss what further steps can be taken to help and to develop new and existing markets for creel caught produce.”
Fiona Matheson of the Orkney Fishermen’s Association said: “The Orkney creel sector has seen a very difficult 12 months with a combination of late cold springs and persistent gales from west and east resulting in undue hardship to men, their businesses and their families.
“Many have lost or damaged gear and been unable to get to sea for many weeks.
“OFA welcome the Government’s announcement that financial help will be made available to the creel sector and are pleased that recognition of the particular stressors hardship brings to rural and isles communities is being recognised at Government level.”