A NEW fund has been launched by the UK Government as part of its drive to help modernise and sustain the fishing industry.

A proportion of a £100m investment from the UK Seafood Fund, which is intended to help further investment and innovation in the sector, has been announced today.

The fishing industry has struggled since the start of the year, due to red tape preventing easy export of produce into the EU. More recently firms say they are facing a labour shortage, blaming a combination of Brexit and the pandemic for a lack of workers able to process fish.

However the UK Government hopes that the new cash will go some way to helping modernise and innovate the industry, with £24m being made available for science and fisheries research today, in the first trance of funding to be released.

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Along with the science and innovation funding, two other areas – infrastructure and skills and training – will be receiving a share of the £100m pot, with further details on the schemes to be announced later this year.

Ministers hope the £24m will help improve sustainability in the fishing sector, as well as increase the number of jobs available.

It will enable the fishing industry to work alongside scientists to research and develop new types of more productive and sustainable fishing technology, gather data on how to sustainably manage the country’s fish stocks and trial projects such as biodegradable packaging for chilled fish products to cut down on plastic pollution in the seas.

Scotland office minister David Duguid said the fund will help the industry to “maximise” its opportunities.

He said: “I know from extensive engagement with the Scottish seafood industry that the £100m UK Seafood Fund has been eagerly anticipated and I welcome the news that the substantial first tranche of funding will boost innovation and all-important sustainability.

"The UK Government has been steadfast in support of an industry pivotal to the wellbeing of coastal communities and we are determined all sectors – catching and processing – should be able to maximise the opportunities now before us."

Alongside the cash, a Fisheries Industry Science Partnerships scheme is also starting today which will gather interest from across the sector, before a bidding process begins for funding of specific projects. The areas which will be funded include research into new types of fishing gear that help sustainable fishing, and projects which would increase knowledge and confidence in fisheries science.

Later this year another tranche of funding aimed at infrastructure will be launched, which seeks to modernise the industry. This could potentially see ports being improved, new fish markets introduces and other projects started which would strengthen the UK’s supply chain.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “This major investment will benefit coastal communities up and down the UK. The first investment from our £100M Seafood Fund will boost science and innovation in the fishing industry and, coupled with our Fisheries Act, help us ensure that we have the most sustainable fleet in the world.”