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20 May 2020

Dorset LEP COVID-19 advice to local aquaculture industry

Dorset LEP COVID-19 advice to local aquaculture industry

Dorset LEP is listening to the needs of the local aquaculture industry during the coronavirus outbreak. Our growth hub, Dorset Gateway, recently launched the COVID-19 Business Impact Survey which some of Dorset aquaculture’s micro-businesses and self-employed have responded to.

Survey feedback has been sent to government to influence policy and we are now pleased to see the Fisheries Response Fund, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, local authority Discretionary Grants Fund and the grant top-up scheme. All schemes which address concerns which we have received through our Dorset Gateway survey. The COVID-19 Business Impact Survey is currently still open, and we would appreciate your continued feedback which is informing government support measures locally and nationally. Our Dorset Gateway team continues to offer local businesses free support and signposting to these finance schemes which are now available.

Helen MacSorley, Dorset LEP and Dorset Gateway Business Engagement Coordinator, said: “Responses to our COVID-19 Business Impact Survey from the Dorset aquaculture sector include micro-businesses and the self-employed. They’re telling us they’re experiencing significant impact to their businesses in the forms of reduced sales, bookings and demand for service. We’re also aware of supply chain challenges and cash flow issues and are advising businesses on new flexible methods of working, alternative supply chains and product or service diversification. However, if current restrictions continue, only a quarter of aquaculture businesses believe they will be operational in six months if current measures remain.”

It is therefore critically important that our local aquaculture industry is aware of the government grants, loans and schemes now available.

Firstly, a £10 million Fisheries Response Fund for England’s fishing and aquaculture businesses is now available. This relief will benefit fixed business costs for Dorset businesses which have been impacted by the current downturn of export and domestic markets for fish and shellfish.

Secondly, the self-employed aquaculture respondents enquired as to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Now open to applications, the scheme allows claims for a taxable grant worth 80% of trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. It is initially available for 3 months and allows continued work or other employment while claiming.

Finally, a local authority Discretionary Grants Fund has now been set up to accommodate small businesses in England that are not eligible for other support schemes, such as those listed above. Dorset Gateway has listened to survey feedback calling for ‘direct access to local grants’ and this top-up scheme addresses this.

Discretionary grants of £10,000 - £20,000 are aimed at businesses with under 50 employees which have ongoing fixed property-related costs. Businesses which have received cash grants from any central government COVID related scheme are ineligible for funding from this discretionary fund. Such grant schemes include but are not limited to the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, Small Business Grant Fund, Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant, the Fisheries Response Fund, Domestic Seafood Supply Scheme, the Zoos Support Fund or the Dairy Hardship Fund. Dorset funds will be granted at the discretion of BCP Council and Dorset Council.

All Dorset LEP COVID-19 Support can be found on our website.

Dorset LEP recognise Dorset’s ambition is to be a ‘national leader’ for aquaculture by 2030, as stated in the region’s Local Industrial Strategy.

The global aquaculture sector now provides over 50% of demand for protein from seafood. This booming industry is a great opportunity for investors and stakeholders in the South West of England which benefits from extensive coastline and high-quality waters.

The aquaculture sector is of great importance for Dorset’s economic, social and environmental future; this local industry needs growth to reach its full potential which will bring leading innovation, employment and ecological protection to Dorset’s Jurassic coast.

Martin Sutcliffe, Dorset Coast Forum’s Aquaculture Development Officer, focuses on attracting inward investment and driving growth in the aquaculture sector across Dorset. To do this, Dorset Coast Forum has created the Dorset Marine Aquaculture Strategy.

Martin explained: “There are four main themes of this strategy: industry support; infrastructure; research & innovation; and training & skills. The geographical conditions in Dorset are excellent for aquaculture and with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), this is an exciting time for both the sector and the region.”

To achieve local prosperity and an ambitious national status Dorset is also working with Maritime UK South West (MUKSW), a partnership of industry, academic and public sector, set up to champion and grow the south coast marine sector as the premier destination for investment and innovation.

MUKSW have strong links to government, other marine clusters and national programmes. For example, MUKSW are working with government on the national Covid Business Continuity Taskforce, enabling them to put south west business requirements at the heart of the COVID-19 response.

Sheldon Ryan, MUKSW Coordinator said: “We continue to be very active in lobbying, promoting and developing our ocean economy in the south west. We have recently launched the South West Aquaculture Network (SWAN).”

The South West Aquaculture Network will link Maritime UK work to stakeholders from a variety of marine sectors with an interest in aquaculture. The network will meet quarterly and bring together offshore renewables, maritime, research and aquaculture stakeholders to help drive sustainable development across the region. This and other maritime news can be found in the latest MUKSW Newsletter.

In 2019, Dorset was identified as a High Potential Opportunity for sustainable aquaculture by the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Keynote speaker at this year’s Dorset LEP’s Aquaculture Expo, Dr Elizabeth Warham, Lead for the DIT’s Agri-tech team, said: “The DIT sees aquaculture as a unique opportunity for the UK to attract further investment and grow exports overseas. Dorset is particularly beneficial because it offers the opportunity to diversify the species of fish, algae, seaweed, molluscs and shellfish that can be produced in the UK.”

“High Potential Opportunities are recognised by the Department for International Trade as a means to promote an area which has had little traction or profiling but has the opportunity for more investment to grow a sector in that region.”

As well as receiving government support and clear regional to local aquaculture strategy, Dorset’s aquaculture companies benefit from their close proximity to the Weymouth base of Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the government’s marine and freshwater science experts.

Professor Grant Stentiford, Animal & Human Health Theme Lead at Cefas, at the Dorset LEP Aquaculture Expo, said: “There are already great businesses doing aquaculture in Dorset. It’s really good for these businesses to hear that we have really good science, evidence and policy support for them in Dorset. Cefas has links with other institutes locally so we’re in a good position to support and drive forward a one health aquaculture system in the region”.

Dorset LEP continues to work towards the Local Industrial Strategy target, that by 2030 Dorset will be a ‘national leader for One Health and aquaculture, adopting a holistic approach that ensures our population ages well and lives sensitively in the environment’.

With partnership between Dorset LEP, Dorset Gateway, HM Government, Dorset Coast Forum, MUKSW, DIT, Cefas, and with the resilience of Dorset’s existing aquaculture businesses, the county will be able to maintain a clear strategic course for a large and thriving aquaculture sector.


Notes to Editors:

Dorset LEP

Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership is a business led private and public sector partnership, promoting local economic growth and prosperity. Dorset LEP deliver projects that support and develop infrastructure, housing, skills, enterprise and business growth to achieve long-term economic benefit for all in Dorset. For more information about all Dorset LEP projects, visit

Dorset Gateway

Delivered by Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Dorset Gateway is part of the national Growth Hub network, providing an informed and bespoke service, free to any Dorset-based businesses looking for help to source appropriate available solutions for growth and development.

In partnership with Dorset Chamber, Dorset Gateway offers free and impartial business advice, signposting to other support and funding opportunities to help businesses grow. As the central information and support hub for all businesses in the county, Dorset Gateway also provides access to a range of business engagement and innovation networks, and a fully funded bid-writing support service for businesses across Dorset.


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