Agriculture; Food and the Marine | Family fishing industry supports
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to monitor the needs of the agri-food producing sector, with particular reference to the need to ensure the viability of the family fishing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent to which employment for families reliant on the fishing industry continues at pace; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
My Department constantly monitors the needs of the agri-food sector. Along with regularly meeting with representatives of the sector, holding formal consultations and attending public forums, we monitor developments in key economic indicators. My Department prepares and publishes an Annual Review and Outlook (ARO), which provides up-to-date information and statistical analysis from a variety of sources, to give a detailed overview of Ireland’s agri-food sector and an outlook for the future. I will publish the ARO for 2022 shortly.
Earlier this year, BIM published its Business of Seafood report for 2021. The report indicated that employment in the seafood sector remained stable in 2021 with approximately 16,650 people employed directly and indirectly within the sector, an increase in overall employment of 1%.
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) will, unfortunately, have an impact on our fishing industry. However, this impact would have been far greater had the Barnier Task Force agreed to UK demands, or had we been in a no-deal scenario which would have seen all EU vessels barred from UK waters and subsequent displacement into Ireland’s fishing zone.
I established the Seafood Sector Task Force in March 2021 to examine the impacts of the TCA on our fishing sector and coastal communities and to make recommendations to me on a mitigation strategy. I received the Report of the Seafood Task Force in October 2021 and it recommends some 16 support schemes at a cost of €423 million. One of the recommendations of the Task Force was 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 announced the scheme in August and it was opened for applications by BIM in September. The scheme makes €60 million available in funding for those who volunteer to take part of in the scheme and an additional €20 million in tax relief.
In line with the Recommendations of the Task Force, I am also requiring that owners of vessels who choose to participate in the scheme must ensure that crew working on their vessel are compensated for their loss of livelihood following the decommissioning of their vessel. Crew payments can range up to a maximum of €50,000 per individual.
The scheme runs concurrently with a series of schemes aimed at creating jobs in the seafood sector and in coastal communities, including the €45 million Brexit Seafood Processing Capital Scheme, the €20 million Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme and €25 million Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme. In total, €225m in supports and developmental strategies have been announced which will contribute to sustaining employment in the seafood sector as a whole, providing new career opportunities and ensuring those transitioning within the sector are supported.
In addition to the measures recommended by the Task Force, my Department’s €240 million European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Programme 2014-20 has been operating since 2016, supporting the sustainable development of our seafood sector. The Programme has been providing a wide range of financial supports to fisheries, aquaculture and seafood processing enterprises and to enterprises, groups and individuals in coastal communities. These include supports for capital investment, innovation, professional advisory services and marketing. Through these measures, the Programme has been fostering the economic development of the seafood industry and coastal communities, building value and growing exports in these enterprises. The EMFF Programme is now coming to an end and a new Seafood Development Programme under EMFAF 2021-27 has been prepared by my Department and has been submitted to the European Commission with a view to achieving adoption before the end of 2022
I can assure the Deputy that this Government is committed to addressing the challenges facing our seafood sector following the TCA. I am pursuing all opportunities at EU level to help address the unequal burden sharing whereby Ireland carries an excessive burden of the EU quota transfers to the UK including in the CFP review which is currently in progress.
The Programme for Government sets down an ambitious programme of actions that promote a sustainable seafood industry and I am committed to working to continue to build on the progress that has been made to secure a sustainable future for our fishing industry and the coastal communities which depend upon it.
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