Seven young local fishing skippers and first-time vessel owners across the Outer Hebrides have been recommended for loans totalling over £300,000 from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Fisheries Investment Scheme (FIS).

All are aged below 40, with five being just 30 or under.

At a meeting of the local Fisheries Panel last week the seven projects: three based in North Uist; one each in Benbecula and Barra; and two from Lewis were recommended to the Comhairle for approval of loan funding requested from the FIS.

Applicants are currently at various stages of the process, with formal decisions being communicated and publicised in due course. The local Fisheries Panel comprises representatives from the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association and local commercial-lenders, in addition to Comhairle officers.

Councillor Donald Crichton, Chairman of the Comhairle’s Sustainable Development Committee said: “These applications will, if approved, bring much-needed sustainable employment to the Uists and Barra in particular and it is extremely heartening to witness so many young, first-time owner/ skippers across these islands bringing forward projects which support the continued development of the Outer Hebrides’ fishing fleet”.

Councillor Crichton continued: “The FIS, which operates as a revolving loan scheme that has proven to be remarkably successful. That success is down to the innovative partnership between the Comhairle’s Business Gateway service, WIFA and commercial lenders. Through that partnership approach close to £1m has been invested by the Comhairle, over the past five years, in the modernisation of the local fishing fleet. This is a significant and important investment in local communities and in a critical sector of our local economy.

“I congratulate all those involved in FIS and I wish the young fishermen the best of luck as they set up their new ventures”.

The seven projects bring significant positive economic impacts for their local communities and will collectively create 16 direct jobs, with combined additional annual landings of over £1.5m projected to be achieved.

Collectively, the total value of these projects is almost £1.75m – with the Comhairle investment recommended levering-in almost £1.5m of additional external funding and private investment from the applicants’ own resources.