Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

Expect Minister McConalogue to Announce National Scheme Shortly

Fishing and seafood organisations say they’re ‘hopeful’ that the Minister for the Marine is about
to announce a national fuel aid scheme for the Irish fleet. They believe the Minister now agrees
that escalating fuel costs are causing serious difficulties for the industry. EU funding is already in
place to support such a scheme, but to date, Ireland had failed to implement one.

Aodh O Donnell of the Killybegs-based Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) says ‘’the survival
of the entire fishing sector is at stake. But following a meeting with the Minister yesterday
evening, we now believe he appreciates the urgency of the situation and will act soon. We thank
him for the meeting, have collectively made our case and would welcome an early decision.”
“The European Union has allocated unused funds in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
(EMFF) to cover the additional fuel costs. Other Member States responded to this some months
ago and received the EU funds. The aid measures helped them reduce fuel costs by up to 30 %.
But Ireland lagged behind on this aid, which created an uneven competitive landscape, as we
still face higher fuel costs.”

O Donnell explains that “this left the Irish fleet at a serious competitive disadvantage- which flies
in the face of EU competition policies. We are now optimistic that the Minister will announce an
EU subsidy scheme which could level the playing field.’’

Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) says some
Irish vessels fishing off our Southwest coast now land elsewhere. “They have had compelling
economic reasons to land their Irish caught fish at French ports to avail of cheaper fuel. The
French draw down and distribute approved EU Funding. We have urged the Minister for action
for the last 6 months. We must implement a similar scheme in Ireland if we are to survive.’’

O Donnell says forcing the Irish fleet to land catches elsewhere has put them in a “lose-lose
situation. “The marine economy loses the supply of valuable raw material, and this creates losses
in onshore coastal employment. The economic spin-off is benefitting our competitors in France,
a market traditionally supplied by fish caught by Irish vessels. Fish caught in Ireland a processed
on our shores has a valuable premium in these markets.

Losing quotas under Brexit already posed a challenge. Forcing our vessels to land these valuable quotas in France because of
cheaper fuel is a body blow to the marine economy and with a further hollowing out of supply
for processing.”

“We have made the case, and we remain hopeful that a national fuel aid scheme can be
introduced urgently. Irish fishermen have been very responsible in this matter, but an early
decision is desperately needed.”