COVID-19 Cripples Small Fishers: Is there help on the way?

From Brian O’Riordan, Executive Secretary of LIFE, Brussels, introduction by Rhoda Twombly, ESIN

Brian O’Riordan, Executive Secretary of the LIFE (Low Impact Fishers of Europe) Platform, has sent us this piece to alert the wider population on Islands of the financially disastrous situation faced by smaller fishers due to the COVID-19 virus crisis. He asks that you send him information about the situation of small fishers in your associations and/or your own experience of the effects of COVID. Brian’s address is below: he would really appreciate your contribution to filling in the picture of small fisher’s current dilemmas.

DG Mare, in a proposal to amend regulations to ease the impact of COVID-19 on the fishing and aquaculture sector, noted:

 “The fishery and aquaculture sector has been particularly hard hit by the market disruption generated by a significant drop in demand. The closure of sales venues, markets, outlets and distribution channels has seen prices and volumes drop substantially. The drop in demand and prices combined with the vulnerability and complexity of the supply chain (perishable products, important need of workforce) made the operations of fishing fleets and seafood production loss-making. Consequently, fishers are forced to stay in port and aquaculture producers will have to discard or destroy products within weeks or face exceptional stock management costs, including more space and feed for grown out fish that cannot be slaughtered due to drop in demand. The rapid decline particularly affects small-scale coastal fishing operators and fish producers.”


For more information on these measures please see:

The following is from Brian O’Riordan:

Hello everyone, Bonjour tout le monde

I hope you are all keeping safe and well in these difficult and worrying times. J’espère que tout le monde reste sain et sauf dans cette  période difficile et angoissante.

Yesterday I was called by the Commissioner who wanted to know how the small scale fisheries sector is faring faced with the current crisis. I tried to give as accurate a picture as I could, emphasising that a large section of the small-scale fleet is trying to keep active, providing food locally, but is facing huge difficulties to do so: markets closed, fresh fish prices slumped, restricted access to storage and marketing facilities. There is also a large part of the fleet that has tied up because of restrictions and due to market closures.

Inis Oirr, Aran, Ireland

Hier, j’ai été appelé par le Commissaire qui voulait savoir comment le secteur de la pêche artisanale s’en sortait face à la crise actuelle. J’ai essayé de donner une image aussi fidèle que possible, en soulignant qu’une grande partie de la petite flotte essaye de rester active, en fournissant de la nourriture localement, mais avec des énormes difficultés à le faire: les marchés sont fermés, les prix du poisson frais s’effondrent, accès restreint aux installations de stockage et de commercialisation. Il y a également une grande partie de la flotte qui s’est immobilisée en raison de restrictions et de fermetures de marché.

He informed me about some new measures coming in today, to make it easier for member states to access EMFF for temporary closure of activities and storage aid. I explained that for those who wanted to keep active, this was no help. In fact storage aid will have a depressing effect on fish prices once the crisis eases. What fishers need most is income support, and support to sell their fish direct to consumers. He explained that such support can only be provided at member state level. 

He was friendly and concerned. He has asked me to keep him informed. 

Il m’a informé de nouvelles mesures à venir aujourd’hui, pour faciliter l’accès des États membres au FEAMP pour la fermeture temporaire des activités et l’aide au stockage. J’ai expliqué que pour ceux qui voulaient rester actifs, ces mesures ne sont pas utile. En fait, l’aide au stockage aura un effet déprimant sur les prix du poisson une fois la crise atténuée. Ce dont les pêcheurs ont le plus besoin, c’est d’un soutien du revenu et d’un soutien pour vendre leur poisson directement aux consommateurs. Il a expliqué qu’un tel soutien ne peut être fourni qu’au niveau des États membres.

Il était sympathique et inquiété. Il m’a demandé de le tenir informé.

Please can you let me know about your situations, and whether the small scale fishers in your associations are tied up, or are able to continue to fish, how you are affected by market closures, sanitary and other restrictions (isolation and social distancing) being applied.

Veuillez vous bien me faire savoir de votre situation et savoir si les petits pêcheurs de vos associations sont amarrés ou peuvent continuer à pêcher, comment vous êtes affecté par les fermetures de marchés, les restrictions sanitaires et des autres restrictions (isolement et distanciation sociale) appliqué.

Sines, Portugal

Cheers, Cordialement


Contact Information:

Brian O’Riordan
Executive Secretary

LIFE Platform
Rue Abbé Cuypers 3
1040 Brussels, Belgium
+32 02/7412433, +32 0486368855

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