The Killybegs Fisheries Organisation (KFO) has said it welcomes the suite of emergency measures proposed by the EU Commission today (April 2nd) which endeavour to mitigate the adverse effects of an industry placed in serious peril by the COVID-19 crisis and to provide reassurance to the market.
However, and in line with the sentiments expressed by the industry at European level, the KFO emphasised it is now imperative additional financial supports are put in place forthwith, to complement these measures.
Chief Executive, Seán O’Donoghue said that the combination of simultaneous challenges around vessels being tied-up as well as seismic difficulties around the market price collapse and lack of cold storage for products has created the perfect, horrendous storm for the fisheries sector.
The measures, he said, which have to be still approved by both the EU Council and the European Parliament should be immediately implemented by the Minister recognising that the Commission-proposed measures are backdated to February 1st of this year.
He stated: “We are hugely concerned at the ability of our members to continue to supply safe and healthy seafood and welcome today’s measures which allow the sector to continue to operate in the short-term in this unprecedented crisis.
“We are literally and metaphorically in unchartered waters. This legislative package provides some solace for our members who are trying to keep the supply of food as constant as possible in the chaos which is encircling us all.
“However, we must be clear. It merely allows Member States more flexibility in reassigning and transferring unused funds which were already ring-fenced for our industry under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
“No new funding has been provided today, that quite simply must be the next move from the Commission if we are to have any semblance of a viable fisheries sector supplying healthy seafood post COVID-19.
“As it stands, fish prices have plummeted by up to 50% at a time when EU Governments are keen for the sector to continue to supply the market with a vital, safe and healthy food supply.
“We commend the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and his officials for their work in liaising with our EU counterparts but implore that their efforts are redoubled to deliver meaningful, additional financial support as the crisis continues.
“Like so many industries, we are crippled by the chaotic and devastating ripple effects of COVID-19 and are both stunned and shocked at the consequences of what this pandemic has set in motion. We stand four-square behind our frontline workers, our Government as well as EU and indeed global leaders, as they seek to restrict the spread of the virus.”