The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine today met fishing industry representatives in the Marine Institute in Galway and discussed the negotiations ongoing this week, between the EU and Norway, on a fisheries agreement and also used the opportunity to provide an update on the scheme to decommission fishing vessels as recommended by the Seafood Taskforce.
Minister Mc Conalogue said “I asked to meet the fishing industry today following the decision this week to recommence the EU/Norway negotiations on a fisheries agreement. Our interests relate to blue whiting and the level of the transfer of blue whiting quota to Norway to pay for other fishing opportunities that the EU is seeking and the level of access to EU waters which, in practice, involves fishing in Ireland’s 200 miles zone. These negotiations will re-commence on Wednesday. The discussions with Irish industry representatives today were very useful and enabled a full consideration of the issues and the negotiating options.”
Minister Mc Conalogue added, “This round of negotiations are being held in Brussels. I am pleased that a number of our industry representatives will attend and assist my team as the negotiations progress. I advised that I am continuing to engage directly with Commissioner Sinkevicious, EU Commissioner for Fisheries and the Environment to ensure that he understands Irelands’ concerns and its priorities in these negotiations.”
The Minister also updated the meeting on the progress of the implementation of the Seafood Taskforce recommendation in respect of Decommissioning. The scheme was focussed at whitefish polyvalent and beam trawl vessels, with the objective of voluntarily removing 8,000 GT and 21,000 KW to rebalance the fleet and improve the viability of the remaining fleet by making available more quota to them.
The Minister briefed the industry that due to the level of interest from vessel owners and the calculations from BIM on the levels of direct payments required to meet the objective of the scheme that an increase in budget was required. The Minister has successfully sought additional funds from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and secured an updated EU State Aid approval.
The Minister reflected that “In order to ensure that all fishermen who wished to take part in the scheme could do so and that the targets set by the Taskforce could be delivered I have increased the budget for direct payments under the scheme from €60 million to a maximum of €75 million with tax reliefs increasing proportionately. Offers for voluntary decommissioning will now be made to 57 vessel owners and the decommissioning of those vessels will make available an extra €34m in quota for the remainder of the whitefish fleet improving their profitability and securing the future of the fleet. I am satisfied that I have now enabled all those who have chosen to apply for this scheme receive the full value of the scheme payment as guided by the Seafood Taskforce recommendation.”