Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

Following earlier EU support measures to alleviate the immediate socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the fisheries sector, the European Commission has added €500 million euro to the upcoming 2021-2027 European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to aid recovery across the hard-hit sector.

Explaining the top-up, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius said the Commission will work closely with EU countries to ensure that the additional funding contributes to a swift recovery, in line with the European Green Deal and the ambitions of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The Commissioner said that for many coastal communities, who strongly rely on fisheries for their livelihoods, the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis was—and still is—dramatic. Businesses suffered severe losses because of the lockdown and the disruption of the European seafood market.

Aiming to support the sector, with measures including support for temporary cessation, storage aid and temporary state aid, the Commission had swiftly acted to avoid a worst-case scenario, he highlighted.

“The European Commission acted decisively from the beginning of the crisis. Our immediate concern was to ensure that this short-term disruption would not lead to long-term socio-economic damage such as bankruptcies and major job losses in coastal communities,” he said.

“The aim of these initial actions was to avoid an immediate collapse of the sector. It is still early days, but we have all reasons to believe that thanks to these measures and to the excellent collaboration with all partners, we are well on our way to achieve that goal.

The Commissioner went on to explain that now that economic activity is slowly picking up again the Commission is moving to a second phase of action, which is to support the recovery and “make the sector more resilient to future crisis.”

To this end, last week, the Commission presented the Recovery Instrument, consisting of new financing raised on financial markets (Next Generation EU) as well as a reinforced long-term budget for 2021-2027. As part of the proposal, €500 million has been added to the EMFF budget, representing an increase of more than 8% compared to the budget initially proposed for the EMFF in 2018.

This additional money will feed Member States’ programmes from next year, “frontloading financial support in the crucial first years of recovery.”

“Drafting the recovery package we always knew that we simply cannot forget our fishermen and women, our coastal communities serving us food even at the most extraordinary times. And we did not forget them,” said the Commissioner. 

“This additional funding aims to strengthen the resilience of the fisheries sector and provide the necessary scope for crisis management in the future. In this respect, all EMFF funding will continue to promote the achievement of the economic, social and environmental objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy.

“Achieving sustainable fisheries is an investment in the resilience of the sector and in the future of our fishermen and women and the generations that will follow them.”

So as to achieve this, the Commission, he said, will work closely with Member States to set up their programmes.

“All-in-all, this funding is for an inclusive and fair future for Europe, for our fishermen and women, for our seas and oceans, for each of us,” the Commissioner concluded.