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The bloc announced today the European Commission has approved the €80million Irish scheme under European Union state aid rules. It explained in a statement the scheme was set up to “support” the country’s fishery sector due to the impact of Britain’s exit from the EU.
The EU said it will use the money as an incentive for vessel owners to stop commercial fishing and scrap their vessels.
Compensation will be given to Irish-registered vessel owners in the form of a direct grant via the scheme which will run until December 31, 2023.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Fisheries and the Marine, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD said: “Today’s announcement is another tragic blow to our fishing and coastal communities.
“The intentional and managed collapse of our fishing industry is truly shocking for an island nation that should be maximising the immense and precious resource for our people from the seas around us.”
He added: “Every single day our fishermen have to sit back and watch the hoovering up of massive volumes of fish from our own waters and then transported back to various European fishing ports.
“Decommissioning will be accepted by some in the industry that have been broken by bureaucracy, inequality and unfairness from the unjust Common Fisheries Policy and facilitated by a Department of Marine and successive Irish Governments that have been unwilling to stand up and fight Ireland’s corner.
“We are paying the political and practical price of many years of weak representation at the negotiating table in the EU.”
Under the scheme, the amount of aid will be calculated according to the weight of each scrapped boat, amounting to £3,000 (€3,600) per gross tonnage.
Fishers will also receive a catch incentive premium of up to £7,000 (€8,400) per gross tonnage, according to the EU statement.
Vessel owners who benefit from the scheme will be expected to pass on part of the aid to crew members. The total amount to be paid out per gross tonnage has been fixed at £10,000 (€12,000).
The scheme is to be partly financed under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve which was set up to mitigate against the economic and social impacts of the UK’s EU exit.
Mr Mac Lochlainn said: “Even at this late stage, I would appeal to the Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue and his Department to seek to amend this scheme to one where retirees could pass on their entitlements, (tonnage and horsepower) to young fishermen.
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“To do anything else is to just wave the white flag of surrender rather than to fight for what is right, a fair share of the fish in Irish waters for our own fishing communities.”
The scheme will reportedly cut the size of the Irish fishing fleet by 60 vessels.
This will take the size of the offshore fleet of vessels measuring more than 18 metres to about a third of what it was in 2006, from 280 down to 100.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD welcomed the EU announcement.
He said in a statement: “The Seafood Task Force, which included representatives of the five fisheries producer organisations and the four main fisheries cooperatives, recommended in its October 2021 report that a voluntary decommissioning scheme should be implemented to help restore balance between fishing fleet capacity and available quotas, following the reductions in quotas for stocks arising from the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
“I have ensured the dimensions of the scheme will follow the recommendations of the Taskforce.”
He added: “The overall package of measures being implemented on foot of the Seafood Taskforce Recommendations will contribute to the long-term viability of the fishing fleet, the wider seafood sector and the coastal communities dependent upon it.”
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