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Less Than 2,000 Vessels Now Left In Irish Fishing Fleet

There are 1,987 vessels registered on the Irish Register of Sea Fishing Boats and of these some 1,709 are under 12 metres. There has not been a meeting of the implementation group on the inshore fisheries sector strategy since November of last year. For the Covid-19 ‘Tie-Up Scheme’ just 147 payments were approved, of which 112 were to inshore boats

This information was given in the Dáil by the Minister for the Marine in answer to questions raised by the Sinn Fein Spokesperson on the Marine, Padraig MacLochlainn.

The figures were accurate as of September 10.

Mr. MacLochlainn also asked when the implementation group of the inshore fisheries sector strategy had last met and the Minister’s plans for future meetings to implement the strategy.

Minister Charlie McConalogue replied: “The ‘Strategy for the Inshore Fisheries Sector 2019-2023’ is an industry-led strategy, the first of its kind for the Irish inshore fisheries sector. The National Inshore Fisheries Forum finalised the strategy at the start of last year, following what I understand was an extensive development process that also involved the six Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums and a Steering Group with industry and State partners. Bord Iascaigh Mhara is leading the implementation of the strategy, in partnership with the National Inshore Fisheries Forum. BIM has advised my Department that the Implementation Group met last year and identified priority actions under the strategy, with the last full meeting of the Group held on November 25. BIM advises that plans for a subsequent meeting, at the end of March, were overtaken by the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has not proved possible to convene a meeting of the Group since then, as the industry has been focused on dealing with the impacts of the pandemic. Despite this challenge, BIM has confirmed that work to progress the identified priority actions has continued, and it anticipates a meeting of the Group may be arranged in the coming months.In the meantime, the Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum has formally written to invite me to meet with the Forum. The Programme for Government contains many actions that I would like to hear directly from the sector on and I look forward to meeting with the Forum at the earliest mutually convenient opportunity.

Mr.MacLochlainn: What is the size of the inshore fishing fleet? What is the number of boats which availed of the Tie-up Scheme and what way were funds paid out through the scheme?

Minister: As of 10 September 2020, there are 1,987 vessels registered on the Irish Register of Sea Fishing Boats and of these some 1,709 are under 12 metres.

During the first wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic there was significant market disruption in Europe and internationally accompanied by depressed market prices for fish. Our fishing fleet, not least the inshore sector, was significantly affected. Former Minister Creed met with representatives of our fisheries sector on a number of occasions to hear their views on the impacts of the Pandemic and how my Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme could support them. Representation included the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, the four fisheries producer organisations, the fisheries cooperatives and the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association. There was a positive and constructive engagement, with a broad consensus from industry representatives, including inshore fisheries representatives, that aid for temporary tie-up of fishing vessels should be the priority, enabling some vessels to choose to voluntarily tie-up, while others fished to meet market demands.

Following that engagement, Minister Creed introduced a Covid-19 Temporary Fleet Tie-up Scheme for fishing vessels in the Polyvalent, Beam Trawl and Specific segments of the fleet. The Scheme operated over three months June to August inclusive, and allowed vessel owners to voluntarily opt to tie up for a maximum of two months each. The Scheme was intended as a safety net scheme to assist fishermen who did not consider fishing to be economically viable during a temporary period of market disturbance and weak prices. The Scheme supported the fixed costs incurred by the vessel owners and as such was designed to complement the Covid-19 wage supports and loan arrangements already being provided by Government to the fishing sector and indeed other sectors of our economy. The supports to fixed costs available under the Scheme were based on official data derived from fishing vessel owners as part of the EU Data Collection Framework. Support payments for inshore vessel owners ranged from €800 per month for vessels between 10 and 12 metres, €750 per month for vessels between 8 and 10 metres and €500 per month for vessels under 8 metres.

For the month of June, some 67 vessels chose to tie up, of which 52 were inshore boats, for July 61 vessels of which 46 were inshore boats and for August 19 vessels of which 14 were inshore boats. Altogether some 147 tie-up payments were approved, of which 112 were inshore boats, although in some instances two payments were made to the same vessel owner where that person opted to tie up for two months.