DAERA Minister Edwin Poots has announced up to £1.7million for Northern Ireland’s fishing fleet to help it deal with the impacts of Covid-19 on the markets for key species.
Today’s announcement brings the total amount of support allocated to NI’s fishing industry during the Covid crisis, to up to £3.2million. Details of the support package is currently being finalised and includes a short-term period of temporary cessation of fishing activity by a percentage of the mobile gear fleet, and fixed cost assistance for vessels that use static gear.
Speaking about the latest tranche of funding, the Minister said: “In April, I allocated a £1.5million emergency support package for Northern Ireland’s fleet to enable them to deal with the immediate impacts of the pandemic. The fleet continues to feel the adverse impacts of the pandemic with significantly reduced markets – predicted to remain depressed for the remainder of this year.
“I have therefore allocated a further £1.7million for our full-time fishing fleet, bringing the total amount of support over this year to £3.2million. This is the most far-reaching support package anywhere in the UK and I am proud to support our local fishing industry.
“This latest support package has been developed in discussions between industry representatives and my officials and helps to address the ongoing issues of over-supply and low prices whilst still allowing the fleet to respond to market demands as export markets and the hospitality sector continue to recover.”
Over the next week, all owners of NI registered trawlers and dredgers will be contacted by the Department and invited to apply for assistance. Contact with owners of vessels that exclusively use static gear will be made around the end of this month. The mobile gear scheme is being funded through the Temporary Cessation Measure of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund while the Static Gear Scheme will be supported through national resources.
The Minister concluded: “It remains a challenging time for our fishing fleet due to Covid-19 and I hope that the proposed support will be seen as my Department’s commitment to, and confidence in, the long-term future of the local industry and help position it to grasp the opportunities that will come during 2021.”
Speaking after today’s announcement from Minister Edwin Poots MLA regarding additional support for the fishing fleet arising from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Alan McCulla OBE, Chief Executive of ANIFPO/Sea Source said;
“Clearly we would prefer to be in a situation where this financial help was not needed, but we are not there yet. Seafood was one of the first sectors to be impacted by the Coronavirus with markets worldwide closing down. Over the summer there has been some recovery, but from early June we have been in discussions with DAERA officials about contingency planning for the autumn/winter months when a second wave of the virus was forecast. Today’s announcement is the result of many weeks of detailed discussion.”
“The Minister’s intervention allows us to manage supplies to our markets at home and abroad with the aim of stabilising prices for the next few months. It is also a vote of confidence in Northern Ireland’s fishing industry as we look ahead to the opportunities arising from the end of the transition period and the United Kingdom leaving the EU.”
“We welcome Minister Poots’ and the Northern Ireland Executive’s help. Northern Ireland’s were some of the first fishermen in these islands to receive financial help in the spring because of Covid-19 and at this time are the only fishermen in the UK or island of Ireland set to receive a second tranche of help.”
“A large part of finances behind this scheme had already been earmarked for the fishing industry. Working with DAERA we made strategic decisions as to how these funds could be best apportioned to assist the fleet. The options for a voluntary tie-up scheme for mobile gear fleet and a fixed cost scheme for the static gear inshore fleet will be welcome help for Northern Ireland’s fishermen between now and year end.”