Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
860. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the outcome of the 13 May 2020 EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting regarding Covid-19 supports to fishermen and the seafood sector including additional funding from the European maritime and fisheries fund; the status of discussions with the Commission in this regard; and the proposals Ireland and like-minded countries made at the meeting. [5914/20]
On 13 May, I met with fellow Fisheries Ministers by video conference to exchange views and discuss measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our fisheries sectors. This was the second video conference of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers to take place since the start of the pandemic.
In relation to fisheries, I noted that overall activity by the Irish fishing fleet is significantly reduced, particularly for smaller vessels, and that the market situation remains challenging. I called on the Commission to keep the needs of the sector under ongoing review.
I made clear the need for an ongoing, coordinated and effective response to COVID-19 at European level in order to effectively mitigate the impacts of the crisis on the agri-food and fisheries sectors. I expect the Commission to reflect carefully on the Council discussions, and I look forward to seeing further proposals that will ensure a robust and timely response to the difficulties that look set to continue to affect the agric- food and fisheries sectors over the medium term.
In relation to fisheries, other Member States shared their issues and concerns about the markets. Some Member States expressed concern that their available EMFF funding was substantially committed and made clear that, without additional financial resources, they would have difficulty adequately supporting their sectors. Together, we stressed that the Commission should explore all available options. As a practical measure, I asked the Commissioner to increase the allowed level of uncaught quota that may be carried over to 2021 for certain stocks in line with scientific advice.
I announced a temporary voluntary fleet tie-up scheme for fishing vessels in the Polyvalent, Beam Trawl and Specific segments of the fishing fleet which is now open for applications. Eligible vessels will be supported to voluntarily opt to tie up for one or two of the next three months, operational from 1 June 2020 and availability will be extended to the inshore fleet and to larger vessels. The Scheme will be implemented under Ireland’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme 2014-20, co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.
This new Covid-19 Voluntary Fleet Tie-up Scheme will support the fixed costs incurred by owners of fishing vessels while tied-up. The Scheme is designed to complement the Covid-19 wage supports and loan arrangements already being provided by Government to the fishing sector and indeed other sectors of our economy.
There are still markets open both domestically and internationally and it is important that we continue to supply these markets to maintain food supply, service our established customers and be in a position to take advantage of increased demand as markets open up. To that extent, we want to see a continuing level of fishing by our fishing fleet. However, to temporarily facilitate the industry to better match fishing activity with market demand, I introduced this temporary scheme to support a portion of our fleet who voluntarily choose to tie up, while others continue fishing.