Fishing Family Closes Business As Fuel Prices Too High Says MP
A County Down fishing family has finally given up the battle to keep their twenty-five year old business afloat as fuel prices and other costs have risen to make their life in the fishing industry unsustainable.
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie expressed her deep concerns about the future of the County Down fishing industry and directed these at the NI Fisheries Minister Michele O’Neill MLA.
Ms Ritchie said: “The continuing opposition by the Minister for Fisheries to introduce a Hardship Scheme for the fishing industry in Northern Ireland has been made all the more difficult to accept with the news that a local fishing family, who have been twenty five years in the fishing industry, have been forced out of business due to an inability to pay their fuel bills.
“The fishing industry has already supplied the Minister with detailed financial accounts highlighting the pressures that many boat owners have been put under as a result of EU restrictions in relation to gear changes and the bad weather conditions.
“The Minister’s response to the Industry has simply stated been that the summer will bring an improvement in fishing effort. This is simply not good enough. The Minster has failed to accept that substantial financial losses already incurred as a result of the bad weather conditions and technical gear changes imposed by the EU are the main obstacles to ensuring that fishing businesses can be sustained now and into the future.
“The Northern Ireland Executive has accepted that bad weather and the resulting losses are grounds for the introduction of a financial assistance packages for the farming industry. The Minister with responsibility for Fisheries must now make the same case without delay to the Executive in support of our fishing industry.”
Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill made a recent statement to Down News on the issue of hardship payment to the fishing industry and you can view that statement on this link:
Local Fisherman Speaks Out on Anxieties in Fishing Industry
Down News spoke to one Ardglass fisherman and boatowner, who did not wish to be named, who said that the industry is on a slippery slope and could literally collapse in nothing is done soon to provide help for the local fishermen and boat owners.
He said: “There are rising costs all round. I can remember when it cost £30 to fill a fishing boat with diesel oil about forty years ago. This week alone I am faced with a bill of £4500 – and that is just for one vessel. Diesel oil is now around 68p per litre for marine fuel. That is astronomical. There have also bills to pay such as crew provisions, harbour dues, insurance, maintenance and others, and it is all stacking up against the industry.
“It is getting to the point it is just not viable to go to sea and fish. Gone are the days when you could search around the Irish Sea to look where the prawns and fish were. This is definitely a disaster in the making. We have been asked to alter our net to comply with EU regulations and now we lose a large part of out catch through the new panels in the nets.
“Some of the local boats have fished in the Clyde and North Shields fisheries but they too are now poor. The costs in steaming a boat them is very high.
“The big question is, where is all this leading too? The confidence and heart has just been knocked clean out of the fishing industry and many are now beginning to fear the worst in months to come. Most boats in Ardglass have not had a decent week’s wage since last September.
“The summer season has not materialised so we are looking again another long winter after the prawn season ends in September. The prawn season this year has been terrible, the worst I can remember. We are all just praying that the fishing picks up, or we all too may be on that slippery slope going out of business.”