Emergency appeal for fishermen crippled by storms

Kirkwall, Orkney, which has also been battered by storms

A Christian charity is working to provide emergency practical and financial support to fishermen who are struggling to provide for their families during one of the stormiest winters on record in Britain.

While much of the focus has been on communities swamped by widespread flooding, the plight of fishermen, who rely on seafaring to provide an income, has gone largely unnoticed.

Fishermen's Mission warns that many have been unable to work since December as a result of the rough seas, leaving them without funds to pay for food, rent and bills.

Among those particularly affected are fishermen in the South and South West of England and along the Welsh coast, where storms have destroyed fishing equipment and even sunk boats.

Fishermen's Mission is supporting these families and has so far been given £50,000 from Seafarers UK to help those most in need.

There is a long way to go, however, as £12,000 of that sum was given out in emergency grants to fishermen in just 24 hours.

"There are around 13-14,000 fishermen in the UK," said Director of Fundraising Alison Godfrey.

"Obviously not everyone will be affected, but we suspect the majority have had some sort of impact and there are hundreds upon hundreds of people struggling.

"£12,000 doesn't even scratch the surface when you think of people who haven't worked for two months and have mortgages to pay. We're really just at the tip of the iceberg and need people to help, but we also really need those who are struggling to come forward and tell us."

The charity is appealing for increased donations from the public to help with the emergency needs of those who are suffering at this time, but is also aware of the long term impact this unusual weather will have on fishing communities.

"From talking to those on the ground, our biggest concern is for those fishermen whose boats have been completely smashed or who have lost a significant amount of kit, which can be very expensive," said Godfrey.

"Fishermen have quotas that they pay for, but many are now unable to fish for that amount, so they are losing out. We're worried that many won't be able to afford to go back into fishing.

"But our immediate concern is for a significant number of people and families who are struggling, but who might not know that we can help them."

The charity is keen that all those fishermen who have been affected by the adverse weather get in touch by calling freephone 0800 634 1020, or going to www.fishermensmission.org.uk

To donate, text FMEN13 £3 to 70070 (network charges apply), go to www.justgiving.com/Urgentappeal or send cheques to The Fishermen's Mission, Mather House, 4400 Parkway, Solent Business Park, Whiteley, Hants PO15 7FJ.