As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads and continue to present a serious health hazard, many parts of the EU economy are experiencing major disruption. Fishing and aquaculture have been among the hardest hit sectors.
The European Commission has decided to adopt a temporary State Aid framework to enable Member States to provide relief to economic operators hit by the crisis. The new Temporary Framework allows aid up to a level of €120,000 per undertaking active in the fishery and aquaculture sectors.
‘Our fishermen and women and our aquaculture farmers are among the first to suffer the economic consequences of Coronavirus, as the demand for seafood has experienced a dramatic slump. But let me say it loud and clear: the European Union stands with you through this crisis. Together, we will ensure that the EU maintains a strong seafood industry and thriving coastal communities, now and in the future,’ said European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius.
The demand for seafood is experiencing a dramatic downturn, as retailers, restaurants, canteens and other large-scale buyers are reducing or temporarily closing down their activities.
The seafood industry depends on logistics such as landing facilities, transport and storage, which may also be affected by the evolving crisis.
The Temporary Framework will enable Member States to make support available, in the form of grants or tax advantages, to operators facing a sudden shortage or unavailability of liquidity. In many cases, this can mean the difference between permanently closing activities and long-term survival of healthy businesses and thousands of jobs.
Upon notification of the measures by the Member State, the Commission has put in place procedures to enable very swift assessment and decision-making.
The impact of these measures on coastal areas goes well beyond the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Also companies in the wider blue economy – from biotech to tourism – will benefit, as worsening economic conditions and restrictions on movement will be felt across the Union over the coming weeks and months.
Aid can be granted until 31st December 2020 to undertakings that face difficulties as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.
These aid measures are fully in line with the EU’s common fisheries policy, which promotes sustainable use of ocean resources. Aid is not applicable to activities explicitly excluded from the de minimis aid in the fishery and aquaculture sector.