Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed has welcomed the recent proposals from the European Commission for the fisheries sector, aimed at mitigating the worst socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis on the sector.

Proposed as part of the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+), announced April 2nd, the Commission’s latest round of measures includes support for the temporary cessation of fishing activities due to coronavirus, support to aquaculture farmers for the suspension of production and additional costs, and support to Producer Organisations (POs) for the storage of fishery and aquaculture products.

The targeted EMFF measures—which strengthen the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative proposed March 13th and adopted March 30th, and complement revised State aid rules, adopted on March 19th—come following extensive engagement with Member States and stakeholders.

Once approved by the European Parliament and the Council, they will be eligible retroactively as of February 1st, 2020 and available until December 31st, 2020.

In a comment to The Skipper, with respect the contingency measures being put in place for Irish fishermen and women in response to the socio-economic effects of the global pandemic, including those coming from Europe, the Department said:

“The Minister welcomes the EU Commission’s publication of proposed regulation changes to allow for the implementation of additional measures for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. The proposed changes are broadly in line with the request made by the Minister at the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting on 25th March.

“The EU Commission has indicated that the draft regulation to effect the changes will be put forward for adoption through an accelerated co-decision procedure.

“However, additional funding for the proposed measures is not being made available at EU level and the EU Commission has advised that the implementation of any additional measures should be funded from existing European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) resources, where available.”

Following the Commission’s announcement last week, and echoing the sentiments of European fishing bodies, the Killybegs Fisheries Organisation (KFO) cautioned that while the latest measures proposed by the Commission were welcome, it is now imperative additional financial supports are put in place, to complement these measures.

Concerning aquaculture producers, a joint statement from the European Molluscs Producers Association (EMPA) and the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP)—both of which IFA Aquaculture is a member—said the new measures from the Commission fail to take account of the specificity of European aquaculture.

Representatives of the sector have consequently called for further amendment of the text of the EMFF Regulation, to allow producers to be compensated for a loss of income rather than simply for cessation or reduction in production, as per the Commission’s proposal, while also calling for an expansion of the entities entitled to storage aid, beyond POs.

Similar sentiments were expressed at a meeting of the PECHE Committee, attended by the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, held via videoconference yesterday (April 7th), to debate the Commission’s second set of measures, which are expected to be adopted in the coming weeks.

Opening the meeting Fisheries Committee Chair, Pierre Karleskind (Renew Europe), said, “We need these measures. We need them to be implemented swiftly. We must move swiftly. But the reason we have this meeting today is to ensure that the measures are targeted where they are most needed, and that they are commensurate with our expectations”.

During the discussion, MEP Grace O’Sullivan, Ireland’s only sitting representative on the Committee, highlighted that for some fisheries the current situation had been ongoing with some time. The market to China for brown crab, whelks, razors and other shellfish has been suffering for weeks now, she said, putting those involved in those fisheries under huge hardship.

The Green MEP thus asked for assurances that, alongside this proposal, the Commission would continue to look at more funding mechanisms that might be available in the coming weeks and months, when the impact of the virus on the economy will likely be more apparent.

With respect the national level supports available to Irish fishermen and women in the interim, the Department says, “The Government has addressed the situation of business and employee/self-employed covid related supports in a horizontal manner and those supports are applicable to the fishing industry.

“The Government has introduced additional measures to support operators and employees in the seafood sector who have been impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. A factsheet that sets out the various measures available was circulated to the main representative groups for fishing on Friday, 27 March.

“Government Departments and Agencies are continuing to work together to explore further support measures for the Irish seafood sector. As the current situation unfolds, the Minister and his officials are keeping industry representatives informed of developments so that guidance and emerging information can be communicated across the sector as necessary.”

In the meantime, the Department recommends that everyone should take note of the advice on Covid-19 being published and updated regularly at https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/

A list of national-level supports available can be found on BIM’s website by clicking here

Further information can be accessed via the Department’s website by clicking here

Yesterday’s PECHE Committee debate can be viewed by clicking here