SHELL fishermen in Newquay have welcomed an offer of financial help from the government after losing out on thousands of pounds this year.
The fierce storms, high tides and huge swell of the last two months have confined the fleet of six boats to the harbour for all but a few days.
During his visit to the town on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg vowed to speak to the Fisheries Minister to secure help for fishermen and their families.
And yesterday he revealed the coalition would provide up to £10 million for a Business Support Scheme to help struggling traders, including fishermen.
Mr Clegg said: “Many fishermen in the South West have been unable to fish because of the dangerous conditions, and their livelihoods depend on their ability to go out and catch fish. It is only fair that they should have access to the same fund as other businesses that have been affected.”
The shell fishing fleet in Newquay is the largest on the north Cornwall coast and employs around 50 people, directly and indirectly.
Skipper Joe Emmett told the Cornish Guardian: “It would be great they did make this money available. We certainly need it as we’ve lost thousands of pounds.”
His crew has only been out to sea twice since January 1 – on Monday and Tuesday this week – and that was just to recover gear and lobster pots that had been left in the water.
He said some of the pots had been damaged, and those they found were often up to half a mile from the spot they were last placed.
“I’ve never known anything like it,” he said. “When I first started fishing nearly 20 years ago we couldn’t go out for most of January, around 27 days, but nothing as long as we’ve had now. Usually you get a few days on and then a few days off, but this has been relentless.
“It’s not just about the lost earnings, it’s about our gear. We can’t make money without it. We’ve just spent two days recovering gear, and some of it is ok but some is damaged and some we can’t find. It takes time to search for it.”
This paper reported in January that bad weather prior to the festive period meant Newquay’s fishermen had missed out on the lucrative Christmas market for crabs and lobsters in Spain and France.
Newquay skipper Phil Trebilcock said shellfish could fetch twice the normal price on the continent over the festive season.
“This is the worst I’ve known it in 40 years of fishing,” Mr Trebilcock said at the time.
Geoff Brown, also a skipper and Cornwall councillor for the Newquay Central area, said the situation was very serious, and came on the back of a relatively poor year for fishing.
“Not only does this impact on the fishermen, it also affects the shore teams, the people in the markets, and the truck drivers,” he said. “There’s a huge knock-on effect. It’s very rough for everyone.”