A fishing industry leader has cautiously welcomed moves to help Torbay’s crisis-hit fleet.

Brixham is the largest fishing port in England and Wales by value of catch, with sales of fish worth up to £40million a year.

The fleet has been hit by the closure of traditional export markets and the reduction in demand from the hospitality sector.

Support locally has been put in place by Torbay Council, including delaying harbour payments, and now a package of aid measures has been announced by the government.

Up to £9 million will be available in grants in a fisheries support scheme with a further £1 million to help fishermen sell their catch in their local communities.

Jim Portus, chief executive of the South West Fish Producers Association, said: “Furlough doesn’t work for share fishermen and the self-employed scheme doesn’t fit for men who would usually earn in excess of the HMRC cap. All shore-based businesses, including fish processing, had the rates support, the access to loans and the furlough of staff to tap-into. However, fishing vessels are not rateable assets, but have similar fixed costs that were not covered.

“Loss of markets on the continent and into the Far East meant vessels simply had to tie-up. That meant crabbers of Kingswear and Salcombe as well as scallopers of Brixham have been tied-up for many weeks. Other markets have almost collapsed, with sales normally to the continent of Dover Soles, Plaice, Cuttlefish and other South West species dropping sharply. Profitability is sub-zero. Some boats have continued going to sea for meagre prices, simply because they have bills to service.

“What I will be doing next is asking if there is to be a package of measures to support the Over 24metre boats that are quite a big part of the Brixham fleet. Their fixed costs have been mounting and they too are not fishing to the extent they did.”

Councillor Nicole Amil, chairman of the Tor Bay Harbour Committee, said: “I am absolutely passionate about helping our local fishing industry, both through my current role and also on a personal level coming from a fishing family.”