Charter boat owners who run fishing and pleasure trips from ports across Wales say the Welsh Government is not offering them a financial lifeboat during the coronavirus crisis.
The owners lost months of trade in the lockdown which has cost them thousands of pounds – while bills for moorings, insurance and licences continued to be paid.
Even now they have to run reduced trips due to social distancing – meaning they are barely getting by.
Despite this owners say they have been frozen out of support from Welsh Government.
They have not been able to benefit from the small business rates relief and grants as they do not own rateable property and say they so far fail to meet criteria for support from the Economic Resilience Fund.
The sector – which estimates it contributes around £6m a year to the Welsh economy – warns things could come to a head this winter as they will not have built up their reserves during the normally busy spring and summer months.
Gethyn Owen, 48, who has been running Angling Charter Services from Holyhead for 17 years, said: “We are trying to get our voices heard, we are stamping our feet but no one is listening.
“It is a nightmare – we have to survive but it is going to be very difficult this winter.
“We build up a nest egg between March and October. We lost March, April, May and even when we could restart in June we could only take one person initially.
“Even now due to social distancing we can only operate on reduced numbers, it means we are still down around 40%. It keeps me ticking over now but by the winter we need to fund moorings fees, licences and insurance – this is when boat owners are going to have problems and it will be hard for some to survive.”
Gethyn, who lost a boat when Storm Emma battered Holyhead back in 2018, added: “We are a small industry but we calculate we are worth around £6m to the Welsh economy due to spending on things like B&Bs, shops, and restaurants.
“We could look at a loan but then we have to pay that back and we don’t know how long we will have to live with social distancing and reduced income.
“We don’t want special handouts, we are suffering like so many others but we can’t get any support because we don’t meet the criteria. Anglesey MS Rhun ap Iorwerth has been very good, but so far no one in Government is listening.”
Anthony Parry, 63, who runs Jensen Sea Angling Charters in Rhyl with son Simon, said: “We have been completely forgotten about.
“We have had support from Plaid and the Conservatives and MS Darren Millar has written to Ken Skates but Labour don’t want to know.
“Business Wales have tried to help but there is no support we can access, there are just stumbling blocks.
“Our pleas for help have fallen on deaf ears, it is really hard and we’ve had no help whatsoever.”
He estimates it may have cost them £30,000 in lost earnings and his costs over that period have remained at around £15,000 depsite not being in the water – forcing him into his vital savings.
“Even now they are operating at a limited capacity due to social distancing.
He said: “If we go into lockdown again we are knackered.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are helping as many businesses as possible with our rates relief scheme, business grants and unique Economic Resilience Fund providing support to thousands of firms across Wales.
“We have also provided extra funding to the local authority Discretionary Assistance Fund to help more people facing hardship.
“All this is in addition to the UK Government’s support schemes, which should be explored in the first instance.”