New fund to help fishermen

Hayley MaceFishermen trying to make a living around the East Anglian coast have been given the chance to access millions of pounds of European funding.Hayley Mace

Fishermen trying to make a living around the East Anglian coast have been given the chance to access millions of pounds of European funding.

A fund worth e4.6m is being made available to small communities across England which rely on fishing to provide employment.

The Axis 4 European Fisheries Fund (EFF) project, which is being run by the newly formed Marine Management Organisation, was set up to promote the sustainable development of fisheries in smaller communities.

Fishermen who want to take part will have to provide detailed business plans showing they have a clear understanding of the issues and opportunities facing their industry and how they will promote sustainable fishing in their area.

They will also have to show that their catches have been in decline, how they are reducing waste and lessening the environmental impact of their work.

If they get through the first round, there will then be a second stage where they are invited to form a fisheries local action group for their area, potentially opening up more funding.

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Dean Fryer, who represents Suffolk fishermen in his role at the Aldeburgh Fishermen's Trade Guild, welcomed the opportunity for funding but said the best help for under-10m boats would be an exemption from the quota system as stricter quotas for catches of Dover sole are expected to come into force shortly.

He said: "We are always having to upgrade things in the sheds because of health and safety, so any grant that helps us with that sort of stuff is welcome.

"The grants are helpful but they are not going to keep all the fishermen employed, especially if the sole ban does come in during the next week or two.

"We can catch our quotas in a couple of days, so we are having to take less gear and are still having to put 65pc of the sole back into the water."

Earlier this year, owners of boats measuring less than 10m called for a fairer quota system because they make up 97pc of the fishing fleet but have only 3pc of the quota allocation, meaning that they have often caught all they are allowed to in just the first few days of the month.

The European Fisheries Fund has made about �38m available to England between 2007 and 2013 to help the industry adapt to changing needs.

A Marine Management Organisation spokesman said: "The EFF grants scheme is competitive and only projects which most effectively meet the aims of the scheme will be awarded a grant."