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COVID-19 TEMPORARY TIE-UP SCHEME OPEN FOR APPLICATIONS

Following the recent announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, T.D, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, has today (Tuesday, 19th May, 2020) launched a temporary voluntary fleet tie-up scheme designed to assist in adjusting the supply of fish coming onto a market that is currently depressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and protect quota availability for later in the year. The Scheme will be implemented under Ireland’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme 2014-20, co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Commission.

The new scheme, which complements the Government Covid-19 measures such as wage supports and loan arrangements already being provided, will offer support to vessel owners for fixed costs incurred while tied-up.

The closing date for applications for June is 5pm on Wednesday May 27th. Applications for July and August will be accepted up until June 20th and July 20th respectively. Any vessel not receiving support to tie-up in any month due to over-subscription to the Scheme may opt to tie-up for one or two of the following months. Applications to the Scheme can be made online at https://bim.flexigrant.com/

This scheme was introduced following intense pressure over the past few weeks from the industry, the Marine Minister has announced what he described as a “Temporary Covid-19 Voluntary Tie-Up Scheme for parts of the Fishing Fleet.”

There were two recent meetings where the country’s Fish Producers’ Organisations sought a tie-up scheme to deal with the severe disruption caused by the Covid 19 Pandemic and a major marketing collapse.

Minister Michael Creed said that the temporary voluntary fleet tie-up scheme would be for vessels in the “Polyvalent, Beam Trawl and Specific segments of the fishing fleet” and its availability would be “extended to the inshore fleet and to larger vessels.”

However, it will not come into operation until the start of next month, on June 1 and will only allow for a tie-up for one or two of the next three months. A maximum of 66% of the number of vessels in each of eight vessel length categories will be approved for support for any particular one-month period. The Department of the Marine says this is to ensure that “some vessels are always available to fish and continue to supply the market.”

The Scheme will be implemented under Ireland’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme 2014-20, co-funded by the Government and the European Union. Fishing organisations had pressed at a recent meeting which the Minister did not attend and where only storage provisions were on offer, as to why funding under the EMFF was not being used for a temporary tie-up scheme.

Minister Creed said the scheme will support “fixed costs incurred by owners of fishing vessels while tied-up and is designed to complement the Covid-19 wage supports and loan arrangements already being provided by Government to the fishing sector.”

“Supports to fixed costs will range from €6,000 per month for a maximum of two months for the very largest vessels over 24 metres, to €500 per month for a maximum of two months for the very smallest vessels under 6 metres in length.

The tie-up scheme will be available to a maximum of 66% of the fishing fleet, in the different size categories, in any one month. The voluntary scheme will operate over the calendar months of June, July & August, to coincide with the monthly fisheries quota management periods, in order to adjust the supply of fish coming onto a currently depressed market and protect quota availability for later in the year.

“Any vessel not receiving support to tie-up in any particular month may continue to fish to underpin the Government’s policy of ensuring that the food chain is maintained.”

The Minister has acknowledged that the fishing industry “has been particularly hard hit by severe market disruption in Europe and internationally. The closure of many markets and disruption of established distribution channels, particularly to restaurants and the food service industry domestically and internationally, has seen market demand and sale prices drop very substantially in many of our key markets. In these unique and unprecedented circumstances, it is useful to give the fishing fleet another option to help match supply with demand in the seafood markets. There are still markets open both domestically and internationally and it is important that we continue to supply these markets to maintain food supply, service our established customers and be in a position to take advantage of increased demand as markets open up. We want to see a continuing level of fishing by our fishing fleet.”

• To qualify for the Scheme, the vessel must have carried out fishing activities at sea for at least 120 days over the 2-year period 2018/19 and have made a first sale of fish to a minimum value of €5,000 in the calendar year 2019, by reference to the Irish Sales Note System administered by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

• These are the payments to be to vessel owners who apply and are approved under the scheme.

• Vessel owners may apply to BIM to tie-up their vessels for one or two months out of three from 1st June to 31st August. The scheme will be kept under review on a monthly basis and the Minister said that, should markets improve, the scheme may be closed before the next tie up period comes into operation.