Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown, the Company’s fisheries team quickly established a Rapid Response Grants programme designed to support to the UK’s fishing and seafood industry through the impacts of closed markets, restaurants and hotels as well as increase its resilience to future disruptions.
Partnering with Seafarers UK, the Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust was able to create a £500,000 fund designed to assist fishing and seafood businesses and food charities: seeking diversification opportunities for seafood and fisheries businesses, promoting the consumption or sale of local seafood or providing community meals using seafood.
The response to the fund was remarkable, with each of the three rounds significantly oversubscribed, meaning that we were able to allocate the entirety of the fund within a 2 month window, with the following results:
Across the range of projects funded, the programme has provided essential equipment and infrastructure for established and new businesses and community groups. These include key storage equipment for fishermen selling their catch direct from the beach in Kent, processing equipment for fishermen selling their catch in Poole, supporting the establishment of a seafood hub delivering fresh seafood across Northern Ireland and enabling fishermen in St Ives, Cornwall to work together to sell their catch locally.
Funding from the RRGP has enabled Sea Source from Killkeel to get their boats back out to sea and deliver seafood across Northern Ireland. Alan McCulla, Chief Executive, explained how assistance from the programme has supported his business:
“I want to record our sincere thanks to The Fishmongers’ Company and Seafarers UK for the financial assistance awarded via the RRGP. Most of our fishing fleet has been tied up in port since late March and most of our onshore staff have been furloughed. However, amongst all the gloom the expansion of our regional sales in Northern Ireland has been a good news story. This has enabled a few of our fishermen to keep going, fishing to order. Our seafood shop in Kilkeel has been turned into a hub from where home deliveries are dispatched throughout Northern Ireland, allowing us to bring staff out of furlough”.