Plans by the Minister for the Marine to use monies released by the EU from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for Storage Aid will severely marginalise the Irish Inshore Fleet.
In an article in the Sunday Times, yesterday, it was said the Minister was in favour of using aid from the EMFF for Storage rather than backing a Temporary Cessation of Fisheries scheme.
Using the Storage Aid scheme would mean members of the inshore fleet would not be able to access funding.
The Minister is due to hold talks tomorrow, Tuesday, with Ireland’s Fish Producers Organisations and two members of the National Inshore Fishermen’s Forum (NIFF) will be attending on behalf of the inshore fishermen.
Under EMFF regulations, Storage Aid is only available to members of POs.
This means that unless an inshore boat owner is a member of one of the country’s PO’s he/she cannot apply for Storage Aid (Article 67 EMFF).
A double-whammy for the inshore fleet is that storage aid cannot be applied to the live storage of product according to Article 30 of the CMO regulation No. 1379/2013 of the EU Parliament and Council.
The Irish inshore fleet mainly relies on catching shellfish such as brown crab, lobster, crawfish, razor clams, velvet, green and spider crab, which exclusively for a live and unprocessed market.
Therefore, even if an inshore fisher was a member of a PO, they could not use the financial support for storing live shellfish.
In two joint letters sent to Minister Creed, NIFA and NIFO reiterated the facts that storage would be damaging to the value of the product and to the future recovery of the industry once fishing resumes when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
They said “the use of storage aid as a solution for the inshore sector is limited and irrelevant to many operators particularly at this time of year.
“If storage intervention is to be used for a limited selection of seafood products it needs to be orchestrated in tandem with a marketing initiative which act to mitigate the potential for a dampening effect of stockpiled seafood product on a re-emerging market.
“Storage intervention is likely to be of limited value to shellfish markets including lobster, spider crab, crayfish, velvet crab, prime fish or day caught small volumes of white fish or pelagic which might serve better to enable continued supply to local food chains at this time.
“In order to maintain the vital roles played in terms of supporting coastal communities, including National food production and food security we need help to target a national domestic market.
“In the short term this could be primed by donating seafood on a regular basis to the general public combined with a product awareness campaign but would also be a genuine effort to feed the population during a time of an unprecedented heath and economic crisis.”
The organisations believe that the Minister needs to seriously consider a Temporary Cessation of Fishing scheme under EMFF Article 33. A temporary cessation of fishing would mean less product going into storage, which would be of greater benefit to the inshore sector as they would qualify for financial support.
Of the temporary cessation of fishing the letter says “We now see no other short term viable solution to stabilise the deepening crisis in the sector. It is now required if many Inshore fishing enterprises are to remain intact in order to return to fishing once markets allow.”
With tomorrow’s meeting approaching it remains to be seen what supports the Minister will put in place for the inshore fleet but clearly the route of Storage Aid will leave this sector of the Irish fishing industry severely marginalised.