In a joint statement issued this afternoon, the European Association of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO) and Europêche cautiously welcomed the additional COVID-19 support measures announced today (April 2) by the European Commission for the fishing sector “as a first measure”. However, additional funding must now be provided, they say.
Welcoming the emergency measures proposed by the Commission in support of the sector in the face of the coronacrisis which “unlocks existing EU funding and market schemes”, the European fishing bodies say they look forward to the quick adoption of those measures so as to allow “a speedy and flexible implementation of the provisions in the Member States.”
However, indicating that more supports will be required, the fishing bodies say they are disappointed no additional funding, beyond the use of existing EMFF funds, is included and call for this to be addressed urgently “in light of the fact that otherwise the measures proposed will not be effective to cope with the unprecedented crisis.”
Regarding the changes to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) proposed by the Commission—allowing for additional flexibilities and for support for the temporary cessation of fishing activities, alongside the reintroduction of storage aid mechanisms for unsold fish—EAPO and Europêche state that while these are welcome they “would have liked to see a higher level of ambition regarding the measures proposed.”
Mr Garat, President of Europêche, said: “We are facing a paradox: EU and national governments are encouraging our operators to continue fishing but, for the moment, they are not tabling any measure to compensate the loss of income faced by our companies due to the huge reduction of up to 50% of fish prices threatening their financial viability.
“It should be seen as fundamental that our fishermen continue to supply healthy food under these very difficult circumstances. Therefore, it is essential for them to receive a certain level of income compensation through the EMFF or other funds to make this possible.”
Pim Visser, President of EAPO commented: “The COVID-19 pandemic will have tremendous and unpredictable implications for the future of our industry. We appreciate the efforts and legislative changes made by the Commission to unlock and redistribute the existing funding possibilities.
“However, many countries have already spent or committed most of their available national funding under the EMFF. In addition, the market situation, once the public health crisis is under control, is expected to be very difficult.
“Therefore, extra-funding should be injected in the fisheries fund by the EU, in order for these measures to effectively cope with the crisis. We are just in the midst of a horrific storm and we do not know how long it will last.”
Javier Garat, concluded: “The fishing industry is a vital, sustainable and responsible sector, committed to continue fishing and maintaining food security. However, the fishing sector has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 crisis.
“If we want to have a healthy fishing industry after the crisis we need additional funding and full flexibility in the interpretation and application of any new rules.”
Image: John Power