Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 18:12 UK

Fuel help pledged for fishermen

Trawler at sea
Fishermen warn many boats could go out of business

A task force is to be set up to help fishermen counter the effects of rising fuel prices, the Scottish Government has announced.

The government is also to pay 400,000 towards the annual maintenance costs of life rafts on every vessel in Scotland.

A further 300,000 will be used to help meet the cost of the warranties vessels must pay on satellite equipment.

The announcement came after a meeting between fishing unions and Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) had said prior to the meeting that the industry had survived European quota cuts and the decommissioning of large parts of the fleet.

But it warned that hard work was being undone by what it called the "crippling cost of fuel" for trawlers.

Fuel efficiency

The industry said that while it was not asking for direct subsidies, it would like to see the Scottish Government bring in a range of survivability measures.

It also wants a level playing field with the French and Spanish fleets, which the SFF said receive assistance from their governments.

Speaking after the meeting in Aberdeen, Mr Lochhead said he would be seeking a meeting with the UK Government to discuss wider issues of the impact of fuel prices.

He also pledged to continue to press the European Union on subsidies, and to work with the industry to develop a fuel efficiency scheme.

Mr Lochhead said: "The fishing industry and I share concerns about the serious situation facing fishermen in these times of ever increasing fuel prices. That is why I have today agreed immediate action to both address short-term issues and look for long-term solutions.

"The fishing industry is of vital importance to people and communities throughout Scotland. We need to make sure that we do not allow the renewed confidence that has developed in the industry over the last year to be undermined.

"We must work with both the UK and European Governments to help our fishermen in these difficult times. I want the task force to be radical in its thinking so we can all ensure a sustainable and profitable future for the Scottish fisheries sector."

The task force will report by the end of August on steps to be taken in response to the fuel price increases and by the end of February on longer-term issues.

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