The fishing and seafood industry will receive £5m from the Scottish Government to help businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.
Demand for Scottish delicacies such as langoustine, prawns and crab has fallen sharply as the export and hospitality markets contract.
The funding will be offered to 650 companies in the industry, including onshore processing firms.
Owners of vessels less than 12 metres long will receive an initial payment of 50% of two months’ average earnings, administered by Marine Scotland.
Fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing said: “The economic impact of Covid-19 is global and is reaching into the heart of our fragile coastal communities.
“I have spent the last week listening to and liaising with our fishing industry, and there are many who have lost their livelihoods with little prospect of an early recovery. The need for action is immediate.
“I am therefore announcing an initial package of support and Scottish Government officials are working as hard as possible to get this money out of the door as fast as we can.”
He added: “We recognise that more needs to be done, particularly to try and create some alternative markets – at least in the short-term.
“I will be discussing with retailers how that might be achieved, and I would also encourage the public to play their part by buying Scottish seafood if they can.
“By working together we can all play a part in securing the immediate future of some of the key contributors to Scotland’s food and drink success.”
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation welcomed the funding package for smaller vessels as a good first step to support the industry.
SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “The markets that these boats sold into have largely disappeared due to the Covid-19 pandemic, depriving many fishermen of their livelihoods almost overnight.
“The Scottish Government’s announcement of this initial financial support is therefore a very positive and much-needed development.
“It is clear however from the regular reports we are receiving from our members that other markets, particularly for shellfish, have evaporated, and the whitefish market has contracted rapidly as a result of the pandemic.
“We will therefore be continuing to make the case to government for similar support for other parts of the fleet that are at imminent risk of hardship.
“Both the Scottish and UK governments are reacting daily and hourly to a fast-changing situation that is impacting on individuals and business right across the economy.
“Continued supply and production of foodstuffs is clearly a high priority and we hope that means can be found to keep supply lines open for nutritious, high-protein seafood during this unprecedented crisis.”
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