Shellfish is big business around Oban Harbour in Argyll. Pictures by Bill Heaney

By Democrat reporter

Shellfish growers and trout producers will receive a share of £800,000 of funding to help make improvements to their businesses to mitigate the impact of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The grants from the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to 11 aquaculture businesses include nearly £100,000 for phase two of the expansion of Seaforth Mussels on the Isle of Harris and around £200,000 for new specialist trout harvesting equipment at Dawnfresh Seafoods Ltd in Lanark.

This investment for small aquaculture businesses is in addition to hardship payments of up to £27,000 which were launched as a direct response to COVID-19 last month.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:  “COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the seafood sector with the market for some products disappearing almost overnight, leaving many businesses at risk of financial ruin.

“This new funding is being awarded to businesses working in rural areas who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic, helping them to strengthen their business and recover from the loss of markets.

“Aquaculture is an important part of our food and drink success story which we need to preserve. In addition to this EMFF funding, over the last month we have provided hardship funding payments worth more than £340,000 to 28 eligible shellfish growers and trout farmers.”

Dr Nick Lake, Chief Executive of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers, said:  “This shows continued confidence by both the shellfish businesses and Scottish Government that once the impacts of the current COVID-19 crisis are overcome the industry has continued scope for development.

“There is optimism that shellfish cultivation businesses as part of the wider Scottish rural economy will continue to deliver quality shellfish which is held in high regard within both the UK and internationally.

“By investing at this time for future development of our sector it indicates the Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to sustainable seafood production.”

Of the £800,000 awarded, £600,000 comes from the EU and £200,000 from the Scottish Government.

As well as £800,000 to aquaculture businesses, phase nine of the European Maritime Fisheries Fund also includes £1.4 million for two Marine Scotland Science projects and £58,950.00 for a Scottish Government project.

The Scottish Government has already invested £22.5 million in the seafood sector in response to COVID-19. Details about the aquaculture, seafood processing and fisheries schemes.

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