Struggling fishermen will receive financial help as part of a support package announced by the Department of Agriculture.
Exceptionally poor weather has left many boat crews facing hardship and yesterday the Stormont Executive approved aid of up to £500,000 to help alleviate the crisis.
Minister O’Neill said: “The hardship that fishermen and their families have endured as a result of fishermen unable to put to sea due to the stormy weather has had a real impact, and I am therefore pleased that my proposals have been approved to help address the severe difficulties they have been facing.”
Speaking to the News Letter this week, boat skipper Norman McBride from Kilkeel said he was relying on emergency payments from the Fishermen’s Mission to make ends meet.
“This has been the worst year without a doubt,” he said.
“Last year was bad but this year has been a lot worse. EU quotas are a problem too, as we’re not allowed to catch cod. The prawn fishing starts in May or June but three months [fishing] doesn’t make a year.”
Ms O’Neill said the aid would go to fishermen who “can demonstrate they have been engaged in at least 50 days fishing activity in the past 12 months”.
She added: “I also propose to limit the scheme to vessels under 27 metres. This distinction reinforces my desire to target support towards those in our fishing industry who need it most. I would encourage vessel owners to take advantage of this support to mitigate hardship including among their crews and their families.”