Published in 2020, this research report focused on the real financial challenges experienced by 431 fishers who turned to maritime charities for help and support.

Fishing Without a Safety Net was published in October 2020 and starkly revealed the financial vulnerability and lack of financial resilience experienced by those who are reliant on a fishing income. Victoria Prentis, the Fisheries Minister, described it as an “excellent report” in response to a Parliamentary question on 17 June 2021.

The report explored the challenges of living on a fishing income. For many self-employed ‘share’ fishermen, their income is precarious; subject to income fluctuations and lacking many of the protections and benefits enjoyed by most employees. For example: regularity of income, automatic deductions for tax and National Insurance, employers’ contribution to National Insurance and automatic enrolment in a pension scheme. Financial necessity drives many to take the risk of going out to sea at times when it would be safer to stay ashore. The dangerous nature of the profession also adds to a ‘boom or bust’ culture in which good money can be earned and enjoyed immediately, and there is little consideration for the future when it may not be possible to go to sea – because of weather, boat repair or illness.

The nature of self-employment and a five-week waiting period before entitlement to Universal Credit means that some fishing families have very little financial resilience when they are unable to earn an income from fishing and have little choice but to turn to charitable support.

The report recommended that a funder, such as The Seafarers’ Charity, take steps to create a ‘safety net’ to support the personal finance needs of fishing families and enhance their financial resilience. This was referred to within the report as a ‘share fisher plus’ model – in effect, the existing self-employment model favoured by the industry PLUS financial support and protections available to PAYE employees.

The Seafarers’ Charity took forward these recommendations and one year later in October 2021 launched a Safety Net for fishing families in the UK.

Download Fishing without a Safety Net Watch the webinar to launch research report