SFPA sales notes fiasco

SFPA lack of enforcement on the registration of Sales Notes is at the centre of the fiasco where inshore boats have been denied access to the Tie-Up Scheme

Inshore fishing vessels under-10 metres are being refused access to the Temporary Voluntary Tie-Up Scheme due to an oversight by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority in enforcing the registration of Sales Notes.

The Temporary Voluntary Tie-Up Scheme which was announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine back at the beginning of May is due to operate over the months of June, July and August.

The scheme which functions through Article 33.1(d) of the EMFF Regulation (508/2014) provides for payments to fishing vessel owners for temporary cessation of fishing activities as a consequence of the Covid-19 Pandemic. 

This provision was enacted by the European Union on 23 April 2020 through Regulation 2020/560, as part of the EU’s Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative.  

The Covid-19 Fleet Tie-up Scheme has been designed to support the fixed costs incurred by vessel owners while tied up in port and to complement the wage supports and other parallel measures made available by Government. 

The fixed costs incurred by fishing vessel owners provided for in the scheme typically includes vessel insurance, loan interest, harbour charges, legal fees and accounting fees. These fixed costs arising for different vessel lengths across the fleet are returned to BIM each year as part of the EU Data Collection Framework.  

To qualify for the Scheme, the vessel must have carried out fishing activities at sea for at least 120 days over the two-year period 2018/19 and have made a first sale of fish to a minimum value of €5,000 in the calendar year 2019, by reference to the Irish Sales Note System administered by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

A problem has arisen for some inshore vessels under-10 metres who have applied for the Temporary Voluntary Tie-Up Scheme but have been refused access to the Scheme because they did not meet the criteria above, that is, the registration of Sales Notes. 

The boats have landings in excess of €5,000 in the calendar year of 2019, as declared to Revenue and have been active for at least 120 days over the two-year period of 2018/19 but they have been let down by sellers who did not submit Sales Notes to the SFPA, as per regulations that has been in place since 2007, and in turn the SFPA failed to enforce this non-compliance.

The inshore fishing vessels mainly at the centre of this fiasco are under-10 metres, boats who are not obliged to carry a logbook but rely on Sales Notes as their only source of official data on landings. The result is that the landings these boats made did not feature in any official landings data or statistics .

The Irish inshore fisheries sector has been devastated in 2020. A series of bad weather at the start of the year followed by market crashes in Asia and Europe due to the impacts of COVID-19 has put the sector in a vulnerable position with an ever larger number of fishers being put out of business.

During the month of June, the former Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine announced €60 million in additional support for the agricultural sector but did not provide any additional funding towards the fishing industry. 

Since taking office last week, the new Minister has allocated €3.4 million to fifteen aquaculture enterprises.