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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D has announced the opening of four new schemes, co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund 2021-2027 (EMFAF).

These schemes, which deliver important elements of the €258 million Seafood Development Programme, will open for applications today Tuesday 25 June. 

Three of these new schemes will provide vital funding support for Irish registered fishing vessels. 

The Inshore Fisheries Scheme will provide targeted supports for the small-scale coastal fishing vessels, which are registered fishing vessels under 12 metres in length who do not use towed gear. Enhanced grant intensity rates of between 80% and 100% will be provided to these vessels to support both on-board and on-shore investment, and for participation in conservation measures. Other registered inshore fishing vessels will continue to have the opportunity to participate in conservation measures under this scheme also. 

In that context a lobster V-notching Scheme is also being opened, which will continue the good work done under previous V-notching schemes to improve the sustainability of this fishery, which is of significant importance to the inshore fishing fleet in particular.  

The Sustainable Fisheries Scheme will provide support to all registered fishing vessels (other than the small-scale coastal fishing vessels) for on-board investment. Both the Inshore Fisheries Scheme and the Sustainable Fisheries Scheme support investment by fishing vessels in more selective gear that reduces catches of juvenile and/or over quota species, with the ultimate aim of improving the sustainability of fisheries. 

The fourth scheme being opened  is the Seafood Processing Capital Investment Scheme. This scheme will provide important support for capital investment in the seafood processing sector, which employs approximately 4,000 people in rural coastal communities. It will continue and build on the supports provided to the sector over the course of 2022 and 2023 under the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR), where the seafood processing industry received over €30 million funding for capital investment. 

Announcing the opening of these schemes, the Minister said:

I was pleased to update my Cabinet colleagues this morning and confirm the launch of these schemes under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund 2021-2027. EMFAF is the primary funding programme for the seafood sector, and the government has committed €116 million in funding to this programme. With co-funding from the EU, the overall value of Ireland’s EMFAF Programme is €258 million. This demonstrates our commitment to the support and development of this sector, which is of significant economic, social and cultural value to our coastal, rural communities.

Following the launch of the EMFAF programme in February, my Department worked closely with Bord Iascaigh Mhara to develop schemes for industry, and they will implement these schemes on behalf of my Department. The Sustainable Fisheries Scheme will support economically, socially and environmentally sustainable fishing activities. The Inshore Fisheries Scheme aims to be a ‘One Stop Shop’ grant aid scheme for all small-scale coastal Fishermen. While the V Notching Scheme is a valuable conservation measure to support a fishery of significant importance to the inshore fishing fleet.” 

The Minister continued:

The Seafood Processing Capital Investment Scheme will support seafood processors to engage in transformational change, while also building more environmentally friendly, sustainable, and competitive enterprises, and make better and more sustainable use of Irish landed or imported raw material.

Both the fishing fleet and seafood processors have experienced significant challenges in recent years. The launch of these schemes will continue to build on supports provided to the seafood sector under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the Brexit Adjustment Reserve to deal with these challenges.”  

Caroline Bocquel, CEO of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), confirmed that BIM has opened the schemes for applications from today, noting that:

Bord Iascaigh Mhara is acutely aware of the importance of these new schemes to our fishing fleet and our processing sector. Full details of these schemes, and how to apply, are on our website. Applications for funding can be made using our online grant application system and BIM officers are also available to provide advice and support to those who wish to apply for funding under these schemes. As Ireland’s seafood development agency, BIM’s own work programme includes a range of measures, also funded under EMFAF, designed to ensure we have an adaptable, resilient and sustainable seafood sector. Ireland is known for the quality and diversity of its seafood, from our prawns and lobster to our oysters and organic salmon. BIM will continue to work in partnership with the Department and industry to support the continued development of this important sector.”  

The Minister concluded:

The Seafood Development Programme  provides the investment that our seafood sector needs to ensure an environmentally friendly, sustainable and attractive industry to work in. This will serve the EU and wider global markets, and support jobs in this important sector.”

These schemes are being administered by BIM, and the four schemes are open for applications from 25 June 2024. Further information is available on www.bim.ie  

Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) – Seafood Sector

Minister Charlie McConalogue T.D. established the Seafood Task Force in 2021 to consider the impacts of Brexit and identify measures that could be taken to support the seafood sector in adapting to the challenges arising as a result of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). The Task Force included representatives of all recognised industry bodies in the seafood sector, state agencies and other relevant stakeholders. On foot of the Task Force report, 16 schemes were developed and implemented in the seafood sector from late 2021 to the end of 2023. These schemes, which provided direct supports to industry, were funded under the BAR and included temporary fleet tie-up schemes, and measures to restructure the fleet; provide liquidity supports for fishery co-operatives,  processors, the pelagic and scallop fleet segments; provide capital investment for aquaculture and seafood processing; support economic diversification; and provide inshore supports. In addition to a further €37.8 million in funding was provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme, for investment in local authority maintained piers and harbours.

European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF)

The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) is €258 million programme, co-funded by the EU, and is Ireland’s principal source of development funding for the seafood sector in the coming years. 

The EMFAF Programme for Ireland was approved by the Commission in December 2022, and will ensure continuity of the valuable supports provided to the sector under both its predecessor the €240m European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the BAR funded schemes implemented between 2021 and 2023 on foot of the Seafood Task Force Report. It was launched by Minister McConalogue in February 2024.

EMFAF supports the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU maritime policy and the EU’s international commitments for international ocean governance. Such support is an enabler for sustainable fisheries and the conservation of marine biological resources, for food security through the supply of seafood products, for the growth of a sustainable blue economy and for healthy, safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is the Managing Authority for the EMFAF programme in Ireland. BIM, the Marine Institute and Bord Bia have been implementing work programmes funded under EMFAF, which provide a wide range of supports necessary for the ongoing development of the sector, such as data collection, research and the promotion and marketing of Irish seafood. BIM, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, also administers a number of schemes to support industry, such as the four launched today.

In addition to these new schemes, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is working with BIM to progress a number of further schemes for the seafood sector under EMFAF which will be announced in the coming weeks. 

V Notching

The practice of v-notching a lobster, is an important conservation measure used to help maintain the sustainability of Irish lobster stocks. V-Notching involves removing a small, triangular section from the tail flap (uropod) of mature female lobsters. This practice not only supports sustainable fishing but is also a vital tool for ensuring the continued health and abundance of lobster populations. 

This ‘V-notch’ marking is supported by legislation that makes it illegal to land, hold or sell these lobsters and as a result if they are caught again, they must be returned to the sea alive. This allows them to continue to reproduce, releasing an average of 7,500 eggs, on up to three more occasions before the “V-notch” is naturally repaired by the lobster, helping maintain Ireland’s lobster fishery. 

Participating Fishermen present lobsters for V-notching, which is carried out by BIM officers, and the lobsters are then returned to the sea by the Fishermen.  Participating fishermen receive financial support from the EMFAF programme, administered through BIM, for a proportion of the value of the v-notched lobsters returned to the sea.

 Further information in relation to EMFAF is available atEuropean Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund – EU Funds .