Islanders around the Irish coast are tied-up and not fishing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Oliver McBride

The Irish Islands Marine Organisation (IIMRO), has called for Tailored Emergency Measures for Small Scale Fishers having reported that practically all of their members are tied up at present because of the collapse in the markets for fish.

The organisation which represents islanders from islanders from counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Cork said that the challenges presented by social distancing measures on small vessels are still being examined and it looks like these will remain for the foreseeable future.  

Many of the island fishers have invested in gear for the coming season and will now not be in a position to fish for traditional markets with the subsequent loss of income that entails.

In terms of measures to support small scale fishers including those on the islands IIMRO propose the following:

Urgent immediate term measures

  • Direct income support for small scale fishers.

There is a need to reform of social protection laws for small scale fishers to include the complete value chain as per section 6.3 in the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries – VGSSF – (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4356en.pdf), which states that:

States should promote social security protection for workers in small-scale fisheries. They should take into account the characteristics of small-scale fisheries and apply security schemes to the entire value chain.

IIMRO also calls for:

  • a repayment holiday on loans taken on fishing gears until the crisis ends; and
  • a fund to ensure vessels are maintained in a seaworthy condition for the duration of the crisis.

Short to Medium term measures:

IIMRO call on the European Commission to urgently issue guidelines to member states to include specific measures to be adopted based on input from small scale fishers’ representative organisations, prior submissions and the FAO VGSSF, including:

  • Section 9.4 of the VGSSF: States should consider assisting and supporting small-scale fishing communities affected by climate change or natural and human-induced disasters, including through adaptation, mitigation and aid plans, where appropriate
  • Building Back Better, as per section 9.7 of SSF Guidelines. This outlines some key measures which can be introduced in the face of a crisis such as COVID-19.

States should understand how emergency response and disaster preparedness are related in small-scale fisheries and apply the concept of the relief-development continuum. Longer-term development objectives need to be considered throughout the emergency sequence, including in the immediate relief phase, and rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery should include actions to reduce vulnerabilities to potential future threats. The concept of ‘building back better’ should be applied in disaster response and rehabilitation.

  • Urgently address the imbalance in quota access for the small scale fleet across Europe. In Ireland SSF fleet quota uptake was a tiny 0.85% of the total Irish TAC in 2018. This would be in line with: UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life below water):
  • SDG 14b​: Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets.
  • SDG Indicator 14.b.1 – Access rights for small-scale fisheries
  • Indicator 14.b.1 – Progress by countries in the degree of application of a legal / regulatory / policy /institutional framework which recognizes and protects access rights for small-scale fisheries.

Facilitate local governance, as per section 10.7 SSF Guidelines.  Provide special and differentiated treatment for small scale fisheries through provisions for member states to fast track and promote SSF producer organisation (SSF POs) recognition and membership of Advisory Councils.  IIMRO has been refused recognition in Ireland as an SSF PO last year based on criteria from a replaced and repealed EU regulation. Had IIMRO had this PO recognition in place it would be better placed to coordinate a response among its members to COVID-19.  This decision is in our opinion discriminatory against SSF and is the subject of an EU complaint.

States should recognize, and promote as appropriate, that local governance structures may contribute to an effective management of small-scale fisheries, taking into account the ecosystem approach and in accordance with national law.

SSF POs will be a vital indicator of progress in this regard.

– Principle 10: Building alliances for ordinary fishers. Assist small scale inshore and offshore fishers in exerting political influence and building alliances at European, regional and national levels; To promote fisheries policies that work for all Irish fishing interests, not just the powerful; The full and equal involvement of fishers in the future development and implementation of fisheries policy at national and international level;

– Principle 20: Looking out for small scale fisheries and provision of aid for Fishers – Support aid for small-scale fishers of a Member State who are directly affected by an unforeseen closure of a fishery they conduct fishing activities in that lies within the Economic Exclusive Zone of their Member State; Legislate to enable access to compensation, aid or funding for operators of fishing vessels less than 12 metres, particularly those who use static gears; Seek preferential access for small scale, inshore, artisanal or coastal fishers between the baseline and 12 miles out.

Source: Low Impact Fishers of Europe

IIMRO Call for Tailored Emergency Measures for Small Scale Fishers

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