Funding scheme helps local skippers land fishing vessels



Two Barra fishing fleet skippers have secured funding to develop their businesses through the Fisheries Investment Scheme (FIS) operated by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Launched six years ago, the scheme, which is managed and delivered by Business Gateway Outer Hebrides, offers loans of up to £100k to help applicants purchase second-hand fishing vessels. 

In the past three years, 73% of FIS lending has been invested in the Uist and Barra fishing fleet helping it become better equipped, with almost 80% of applicants under 40-years-of age. 

Norman MacLean, Business Gateway Outer Hebrides, said: “Since 2012, FIS has loaned almost £500k to help people buy vessels they otherwise would not have been able to afford. The scheme continues to be attractive to the local fishing industry and has encouraged a great number of younger people to invest in the sector, which can only have a positive impact on the ageing local fleet, helping to make a vital sector of the local economy healthier and more sustainable.”

Catherine Cobb is the first female FIS applicant from Barra to be assisted through the scheme, securing a £8.5k loan and a £1.5k grant to help her purchase a second-hand vessel to fish for wrasse.   

The 32-year-old also received assistance from the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme, a joint-initiative between ‘Scape Reinvest Communities Fund’ and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Having graduated with a degree in Geography before working in television production, Catherine decided to retrain and completed an HNC in Mechanical Engineering before working offshore in the oil industry.

After working aboard a prawn trawler and static gear boats, she decided to launch Tom Cat Fishing, named after her grandpa Tom, and has now purchased her own fishing vessel that will catch wrasse in the summer months and velvet crab out of season. 

She said: “The FIS loan has helped me purchase a vessel over a period of months rather than years, and by applying through Business Gateway Outer Hebrides I also found out about grant funding which I otherwise would not have known about. My main aim over the next year is for the business to start generating a good, steady turnover. I also hope that the success of my small business can have a positive effect on other local businesses around it; from purchasing materials through to the product being supplied.”

Funding from FIS has also allowed Angus MacLeod, one of only a handful of Outer Hebrides fishermen to possess a Class 1 Skippers’ Ticket, which enables him to skipper fishing vessels of any size in the UK, to invest in a modern multi-purpose white-fish vessel.

The boat is capable of twin-rigging for prawns, white fish or pelagic species as well as additional species that may become available post-Brexit.

The 49-year-old, from Barra, has been a fisherman ever since leaving school, spending the first 10 years in the industry trawling aboard a local mobile-gear vessel before a period seine-netting and 15 years pelagic fishing in EU and international waters. His business is called, St Barr Fishing Ltd. 

Angus said: “I initially went to Business Gateway 10 years ago when I purchased my first trawler and went back to them as I knew funding might be available to help me purchase a smaller and more efficient vessel. Having worked with my 18-year-old son for nearly two years, knowing that he is keen to follow in my footsteps gave me the confidence to take on the loan. As he learns more it will provide me with an opportunity to spend less time at sea and more time on land growing the business.”

Norman McLean added: “The FIS has enabled the modernisation and expansion of the Barra fleet to reflect the opportunities created by higher shellfish prices, increased global demand and diversification to vessels which target wrasse and other species. With a further 17 applicants to the scheme currently in the pipeline, FIS will continue to play a vital role in creating much needed sustainable local employment.”

Find out how Business Gateway Outer Hebrides can help your business by visiting their local pages or call 01851 808 240.

Outwith the area? Find your local Business Gateway office or call 0300 013 4753.

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If you need advice on any aspect of starting, running or developing your business, just contact your local Business Gateway office.

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