Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has welcomed the State Aid approval to facilitate the implementation of the voluntary decommissioning scheme for the whitefish fishing fleet recommended by the Report of the Seafood Task Force – Navigating Change.
‘The Seafood Task Force, which included representatives of the five fisheries producer organisations and the four main fisheries co-operatives, recommended in its October 2021 report that a voluntary decommissioning scheme should be implemented to help restore balance between fishing fleet capacity and available quotas, following the reductions in quotas for stocks arising from the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement,’ the Minister said in response to the approval decision by the EU Commission that is expected to make available a fund of up to €60 million in direct payments to deliver the voluntary scheme.
‘I have ensured that the dimensions of the Scheme will follow the Recommendations of the Task Force.’
The Task Force’s findings were that a scheme targeting the voluntary decommissioning of vessels with total capacity of up to 8000gt and 21,000kW could restore the viability of the remaining fleet.
‘This latest decision opens the way for implementing this key recommendation which will offer vessel owners a premium of up to €12,000 per gross tonne. This will comprise a basic premium of €3600 per gross tonne and a catch incentive premium of up to €8400,’ Charlie McConalogue said.
‘In line with the Recommendations of the Taskforce I am also requiring that owners of vessels who choose to participate in the scheme must ensure that crew working on their vessel are compensated for their loss of livelihood following the decommissioning of their vessel.’
The scheme provides for a payment by the vessel owner to the crew member for each year of service in the fleet, up to a maximum of €50,000 for a crew member who had worked in the fleet for 40 years.
The Seafood Task Force recommended that in order to achieve the objective of improving the viability of the fleet within available fishing quotas post Brexit a package of tax measures be put in place to support vessel owners who choose to apply to leave the fleet under what is a voluntary exit scheme.
‘This scheme flows directly from the recommendations of the Seafood Task Force. I have asked BIM to ensure that the scheme will allow for an adequate period of time for vessel owners to reflect before making what are important decisions in relation to whether or not they wish to avail of the Scheme.
The overall package of measures that are being implemented on foot of the Seafood Taskforce Recommendations will contribute to the long-term viability of the fishing fleet, the wider seafood sector and the coastal communities dependent upon it,’ the Minister stated.
BIM will administer the Scheme and will publish full technical details and open the scheme in a matter of weeks.