Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill has committed to bring forward a Fisherman’s Assistance Package to help them through a period of severe weather when they have been kept from working.
The minister was speaking yesterday after a meeting with a delegation of fishermen from south Down.
She said: “Last spring I secured Executive approval to make available some £400k to extend financial assistance to our fishermen because of the impact of exceptionally bad weather.
“During my meeting this afternoon I heard that many are facing difficulties both financial and weather-related which have prevented them from putting to sea.
“I have therefore agreed to bring forward proposals to the Executive for some immediate help where this is needed most.”
The minister announced that she plans to appoint a Fishing Industry Taskforce to undertake a thorough examination of the industry and will visit Kilkeel early next month.
NI Conservatives’ spokesman Mark Brotherston said: “I’ve been talking to the producers’ organisations on a regular basis and the situation is critical.
“Bad weather this year has been preventing the fleet from getting out to sea and there has been no help from the fisheries minister so far.”
In recent days the Fishermen’s Mission at Kilkeel Harbour has distributed around £20,000 in emergency payments to struggling trawlermen.
Skipper Norman McBride has been in the industry for 33 years.
“This has been the worst year without a doubt,” he said.