Thousands employed in the fishing industry face debt and financial hardship, according to findings from the Research Unit for Financial Inclusion at Liverpool John Moores University.
The closure of the hospitality sector due to COVID-19 and the loss and export markets has compounded the vulnerability of small-scale fishers, many of whom are self-employed or part of so-called ‘share-fisheries’.
The research carried out on behalf of Seafarers UK found that 63% of workers who accessed the charity’s services were seeking help with debt.
Coastal communities are now recognised as having some of the worst levels of economic and social deprivation in the UK, with a widening gap in income, education and health factors with the rest of the country.
No 'safety net'
Today’s report “Fishing Without a Safety Net: The Financial Resilience of Small-Scale Coastal Fishers, their Families and Communities” is foreworded by Fisheries Minister, Victoria Prentis MP, and uncovers an array of stressors on coastal fishers, including mental health problems and relationship difficulties for those surviving without a financial ‘safety net’.
Author Dr Paul A Jones, Reader in the Social Economy at LJMU, said: “This report reflects the real-life financial experiences of many fishers in the small-scale, inshore fleet. It reveals their challenges and vulnerabilities of their lives, which are exacerbated through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“However, it also indicates a range of possible interventions that, if implemented, could provide a safety net for people working in the industry and facilitate the financial health and resilience of fishers, their families and coastal communities.”
The report’s findings are based on the real financial problems experienced by 431 fishers and their families who reached out for help from maritime welfare charities, such as SAIL (Seafarers’ Advice & Information Line), the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, and Seafarers’ Hospital Society, and was augmented by interviews with fishers from around the UK.
It states that much of the vulnerability of workers lies in the ‘share fishing model’. A part of fishing life since medieval times, it enables fishers to receive a share of the value of the total catch, rather than a predictable and stable income, which presents challenges to pension planning, sick-pay and access to welfare.
Key proposed actions include boosting financial literacy in fishing communities to improve financial planning; improved Government welfare support; access to savings and affordable credit from a credit union, support to budget for tax and plan for insurances and a retirement pension.
Seafarers UK will launch the report at a digital event on the 8th October 2020 from 10 am – 12 pm, which includes an address from the Fisheries Minister.