Great Britain

Fishermen warn Covid second wave could put them out of business without public support

Fishermen have warned that they may go out of business as restaurants cancel orders and shut their doors at a “terrifying rate” in response to new coronavirus restrictions that prevent households in much of the country from mixing.

Falling sales, particularly of high-end fish such as crab and lobster, have prompted industry figures to call for more government help and launch a campaign to persuade people to buy more fish over the festive season. 

Call4Fish was originally set up during the lockdown in March to support fishermen, many of whom fall outside various government schemes for jobs and businesses.  

Having seen strong demand earlier in the year for its home delivery service, the group is now seeking further assistance from the public during the second wave of Covid-19.

"It is difficult to see without that public support once again rising up how many of these businesses will keep going to Christmas," co-founder Rodney Anderson told PA news agency.

Call4Fish is set to launch its campaign "Spread Christmas cheer, give fish this year" by setting up a gift service in an attempt to fill in for the loss of restaurant and party orders.

Catherine Spencer, chief executive of charity Seafarers UK, said ministers could not allow a repeat of the situation in the spring where many fishermen were "left ... without any form of" financial support.

She warned: "It is difficult to see how some fishers will survive a locked-down Covid winter without urgent Government intervention to put in place a safety net."

With much of Europe under some form of lockdown or increased social restrictions, fishermen have also complained of a reduction in export opportunities as well as domestic demand.

Graham Flannigan, general manager at Berwick Shellfish Company in Northumberland, said: "In October we would normally see the lobster market prepare to place Christmas orders to pre-book stock but this hasn't happened at all.

"Restaurants are closing at a terrifying rate and people who are still in work are very cautious with what money they have to spend.

"Over the last nine months we have seen a massive drop on demand both in the UK and throughout France and Spain. Prices of live lobsters have dropped as much as 30 per cent compared to this period last year, sending markets into a downward spiral."

Additional reporting by PA news agency

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