Sustainable fishing projects net government funding boost

The UK government’s £100m UK Seafood Fund has today awarded 17 UK-based projects new funding to support efforts to minimise the impact of the fishing industry on the marine environments.

Projects receiving new funding include initiatives looking to minimise the impact of lost fishing nets and innovative research into new trawler designs that reduce the amount of bycatch – species accidentally caught by fishermen.

The projects are being supported through the Fisheries Industry Science Partnerships (FISP) scheme, which is part of the government’s larger £100m UK Seafood Fund that aims to support infrastructure improvements, skills and training, export development, and research and innovation projects throughout the fishing and seafood industry.

To date the FISP scheme has made £4m available to fund a range of projects, and from today a new funding round for scheme is opening offering awards worth of up to £1m for two-year projects. The government said it had also made new areas eligible for support, which should allow for a wider variety of projects to receive funding.

“I want our fishing industry to thrive, to be more sustainable and to invest in the people who will make it a success for decades ahead – so I encourage everyone to bring forward their pioneering ideas,” said Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis.

The FISP scheme was originally launched in 2021 with an initial allocation of £1.4m, which according to FISP has already helped to support a number of ‘ground-breaking’ projects.

One of the technologies to receive funding was SafetyNet Technologies, which uses LED lights to deter unwanted fish from entering nets and helps prevent bycatch. FISP said its funding has been used to support research and workshops trialling the technology in Aberdeen ahead of the start of commercial trials on lobster and squid vessels later this month.

Successful bidders from the second round of funding, FISP Round 2, include CEFAS which will work with skippers in the Farn Deeps langoustine trawl fishery off the north-east coast of England to test selective trawls, chosen from designs that have demonstrated potential to reduce unwanted catches in scientific trials.

Meanwhile, the Holderness Fishing Industry Group has been awarded and is partnering with the University of Hull to help identify practices that reduce the impact of lost shell fishing gear (LSG) and assess hidden costs to the industry and individuals.

In addition, Bangor University and partners will use new funding to research the impact of towed fishing gear – such as scallop dredging and beam trawling – on blue carbon held in seabed sediments.

The government also announced that Round 1 of its Skills and Training Scheme within the fishing industry will also launch today. It said that up to £5m will be made available to invest in training to develop and improve courses to upskill the industry.

Round 2 of the Infrastructure Scheme, which seeks to build capacity across the UK fishing sector supply chain, will open in September. All projects will benefit from the extension of the UK Seafood Fund until March 2025, the government said.

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