Europêche, representing the EU fishing sector, has made a series of proposals to the European authorities for critical measures needed to cope with the operational, commercial, and safety problems the sector has only just begun to experience, and which will inevitably worsen in the coming weeks due to the protective measures taken against the spread of Covid-19.
‘Our fishermen are doing a fantastic job. While far away from their homes and families, they continue bringing healthy seafood to our plates in a very challenging environment,’ said Europêche managing director Daniel Voces.
‘They deserve the full attention of our public authorities to secure their safety, their economies and the continuity of the food supply.’
He commented that the primary concern is the continuity of fishing activities and food supply to EU citizens. Measures are also needed for those vessels forced to cease operations.
In a position paper sent to EU decision-makers the sector points out severe operational problems such as port and equipment supply restrictions, logistical difficulties, and soaring freight prices on shipments of fish.
Concerning commercial factors, the collapse in first-sale fish prices is deeply worrying, largely due to the closure of restaurants, schools, businesses and food markets and the strict limitations imposed on travel and tourism.
In order to alleviate as much as possible the current situation of trade and value chain disruptions and evaporating market demand resulting in falling price levels, Europêche asks for legislative changes to enable fishermen to carry over more than the existing 10% of their fishing quotas to next year and for fair intervention prices for unsold fish.
In the document, the industry demands a series of measures that guarantee the logistical needs of crews and ships, such as the transport of crews, equipment, health protocols tailored to each fleet and guaranteeing the supply of masks and gloves both to ships and to fish markets or fish auction halls.
Europêche also urges policy-makers to modify the fisheries fund regulation in order to quickly adjust and provide financial aid for those fishing companies that are forced to cease their operations for imperative reasons such as member states measures to avoid the spread of the COVID-19, designation of high risk areas, crew infections or lack of market demand.
In addition to these vital mitigation measures the sector calls on Member States to introduce national measures such as VAT reduction, suspension of social security contributions and tax exemptions.