A Lough Neagh fishing co-operative has said talks between themselves and DAERA officials to develop a support package for the industry are at an ‘advanced’ stage.
The markets the fishermen serve have been decimated by the Covid-19 crisis but Pat Close, Chair of Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-Operative Society, said they are hopeful of an announcement soon.
“Discussions have been going on for several weeks between Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative and senior DAERA officials with a view to securing some financial support,” he said.
“The fishermen of Lough Neagh’s markets across Europe have been effectively wiped out in recent months due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A workable scheme which accommodates the unique nature of the industry on the lough is at an advanced stage of drafting and are hopeful Minister Poots will be in a position to announce the scheme in the coming days.”
Mid Ulster MLA, Emma Sheerin, welcomed the progression.
“Discussions between the Department and the Coop are bearing fruit and we encourage the Minister to ensure financial support is delivered to hard-pressed fishing families,” she said.
“Fishing is a labour-intensive industry, which unfortunately sees low returns for most even in the best of times.
“2020 has been a challenging year for many sectors, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our local fishing communities has been hugely damaging.
“The Lough Neagh Eel Fishing Co operative have raised a number of worries for the industry directly with the Minister, most notably the total decimation of the European market for eels.
“Most of the eels produced in Lough Neagh end up on the plates of festival-attenders in Holland and Germany, and as lockdown rolled out, this demand obviously disappeared.
'This happened just as the fishing season began, leaving many fishermen with questions over the viability of their livelihood, and absolutely no income during lockdown.”
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