Fishermen coping with surge damage in line for cash help

The sun shining on Cromer beach at 7.30am as crab fishermen brings in their catch. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY The sun shining on Cromer beach at 7.30am as crab fishermen brings in their catch. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Thursday, March 13, 2014
8:00 AM

Struggling fishermen who have been affected by the December storm surge will be able to receive a financial boost.

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The government fund will allow people who make their living from the sea to receive up to £5,000 to replace lost or damaged fishing gear including crab and lobster pots.

It comes as the Fishermen’s Mission also launched a nationwide appeal for emergency funds to aid people in coastal communities who have been unable to land any catches, as a result of the severe storms.

Cromer crab fisherman John Lee said it was not clear how the December 5 floods had affected the crab and lobster season, which has recently started and would continue until November.

He said: “It is difficult to tell if the rough weather has affected us or not. Rough weather of any kind is not helpful. Most of us [inshore fishermen] had finished for the year by the time the storm happened. If we were to get anything like the storm we had in December it would decimate the fishing trade.”

The Fishermen’s Mission, which provides support for fishermen and their families, is calling on people to donate to a nationwide fund which would benefit north Norfolk communities.

As well as raising money to help those still bringing in a catch, it offers financial and pastoral aid to the families and widows of fishermen.

Emergency grants of up to £500 are being made available to individuals in need.

Mr Lee, chairman of the North Norfolk Fisheries Local Action Group, said the major issues facing fishermen were offshore wind farms and the possibility of creating a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) off the north Norfolk coast.

He has been fishing for 35 years and said: “Wind farms don’t help because they keep eating up the sea so we have less space to fish in.”

Wind farms displaced boat crews and the turbines were too dangerous for fishing gear, according to Mr Lee.

He added the issue of MCZs was a worry because fishermen feared more management measures being enforced upon them.

“The best people to look after the fishing stocks are fishermen but unfortunately we have a bad name.

“People tie it to the decimation of cod stocks. It is within our interests to take care of what we have got.”

The loss of the fishing industry would have a “massive impact on tourism.”

He added the impact of wind farms on crab stocks would not be known for another decade.

A spokesman for Statoil and Statkraft, owners of Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm, said they understood there was concern among some members of the local fishing community, who believed that the areas off the north Norfolk coast in which they could fish were being “squeezed by various activities.”

Their concerns related not just to wind farm activity but also to the establishment of MCZs, sites of special scientific interest, and the activities of the oil and gas industry..

The management team was committed to maintaining “good co-operation” with fishermen and regular sea bed surveys were carried out including one last autumn.

To donate to the Fishermen’s Mission visit www.fishermensmission.org.uk/just-giving.html.

Applications for the government grant should be made by June 6 this year through the Marine Management Organisation.

How healthy is the local fishing industry? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk.

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