Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue is fuelling a crisis by not giving an energy subsidy to the Irish seafood sector

Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue is fuelling a crisis by not giving an energy subsidy to the Irish seafood sector

Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation CEO, Patrick Murphy has criticised Minister Charlie McConalogue for washing his hands of the fuel cost crisis facing the Irish fishing industry.

The Irish fishing and processing industry has been facing a major crisis since the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the sectors watch the price of fuel soar.

To add to their problems, IS&WFPO members are facing annihilation. This has come at the hands of the current government who have decided the simplest solution to deal with the loss of Irish fishing quota due to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the UK, is to decommission the whitefish fleet.

The Irish fleet of 180 whitefish boats will lose up to 60 vessels, and the government’s decision not to authorise fuel supports for the industry is seen as the final solution. Instead of granting aid from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), the Minister has incorrectly been using the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund (BAR) monies, which is meant for a Temporary Tie-up Scheme, as a method to fund Irish boats not going to sea, therefore not burning fuel.

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Irish boat owners are forced to sit in harbour and watch as their EU neighbours from France and Spain land fish from Irish waters in Irish harbours while benefitting from a fuel subsidy implemented by their governments on the back of a derogation given by the EU Commission.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has spent the time telling the industry that he has been assessing the situation, and even after a meeting with fishing industry representatives on Friday 23 September, the Minister has decided once again to toe the party line and not act to help the industry; as they act out their decision to relieve the country of the whitefish industry.

In his statement on the Minister’s lack of concern, the IS&WFPO CEO says:

“In his press release dated 23/09/2022 the Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, makes no mention of any movement to assist the Seafood Sector on the issue of an energy subsidy, despite the fact he has €5.5m in European Funds that could be applied to address the crisis.

“Had he heard us, his press release headline would read “Minister McConalogue is acting immediately to help Seafood Sector Organisations to continue to operate despite the impacts of energy costs and he also discussed EU Fisheries negotiations on quota setting for 2023”.

“We fundamentally disagree with the Minister’s view that the BAR money secured from Europe is there and being used to deal with the rising energy costs. The funds listed in the first paragraph came from a report submitted to the Minister by his Task Force in October 2021, five months before the Russian Ukraine conflict even started.

“This is really simple. Our industry, like all others, is suffering from the fallout of the Russian conflict with its neighbour, the Ukraine. The European Union show of solidarity with Ukraine has led to a removal of Russian Oil and Gas supply to the European markets and as a result, fuel costs have more than doubled.

“In recognition of the hardship and jeopardy to Europe’s fishing Industry as a result of these increased costs, the European Commission invoked Article 26.2 of the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) under Regulation 2021/1139.

“This provides that in case of exceptional events causing a significant disruption of markets, compensation may be paid to operators of the fishery and Aquaculture sector for their income forgone or additional costs.

“The Minister has acknowledged there are unallocated funds left over in the 2014-2020 EMFF but he is still trying to decide where this money is best spent for the benefit of the Fishing Industry, and this despite all Industry Consultations clearly articulating to the Minister that the greatest threat currently is our inability to cover the additional costs of rising energy prices.

“The fishing fleets of France and Spain are receiving such funding from their Ministers giving their fishermen an unfair advantage in the Common Market.

“In short, not supporting the industry now will damage the current participants to a degree that will be damaging in the short term and probably fatal in the not so long term to come.”

Source: Press Release

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