FISHERMEN have criticised a government compensation scheme after it emerged that it won't pay retrospective claims for replacing fishing gear that was damaged in the storms.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced financial help worth £5,000 for each fisherman who has lost or suffered damage to equipment in the recent storms.
But the fact that the financial aid package doesn't cover equipment purchased prior to applying for help is being seen as a government "get-out clause" by some.
The relentless bad weather left many fishermen in Padstow and the surrounding areas facing a desperate financial crisis – with some unable to work since Christmas.
They were seeking help with the cost of replacing hundreds of crab and lobster pots which went missing or were damaged beyond repair in the storms, preventing many of them from doing their jobs.
The announcement will see fishermen receive up to 60 per cent of the cost of replacing lost or damaged equipment through the European Fisheries Fund. The Government will also continue to pay lighthouse dues for another year, saving the industry up to £140,000.
However, many crab and lobster fishermen, like Padstow's Johnny Murt, have already spent crippling amounts on new equipment so they can continue to work – but the grant will not cover these expenses accrued prior to applying for the grant.
"The one thing that has upset a lot of fishermen is that those who have already spent thousands of pounds on gear won't be eligible for the grant and won't be compensated," Mr Murt, 36, said.
"I think it's a massive get-out clause for the Government, because many of us have had to go out and purchase equipment to continue working.
"The Government was too slow, surely we weren't expected to sit around all this time and lose money and time by not working, we had to go out and get this gear as soon as possible, because without it we can't work."
Mr Murt said the help is welcome, but for the many fishermen who have already replaced equipment, it will mean nothing.
A spokesman for the Marine Management Organisation confirmed the clause in the application form.
"For fishermen who have already replaced storm-damaged gear, unfortunately the European Fisheries Fund does not allow us to offer funding for equipment that has already been purchased," the spokesman said.
Despite the hindrance, North Cornwall MP and Floods Minister Dan Rogerson believes the help is "exactly the kind that people in Padstow need to get back on their feet".
Mr Rogerson, who has been pushing for the extra help after meeting fishermen in Padstow last month, said: "As local MP I will be working with affected fishermen to make sure that they benefit from all the help and financial support that is available to them. The Government will also be working with agencies and local councils to make sure that fishermen can access the schemes and get the money they need as quickly as possible."