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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue today welcomed the decision by the EU Commission to adopt the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) Programme 2021-27 for Ireland.

“I am pleased to announce that today the EU Commission has adopted the €258 million EMFAF Seafood Development Programme which envisages significant funding in our seafood sector and our coastal communities. These communities have faced extraordinary challenges in recent times, particularly due to Brexit and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. In 2021, I established the Seafood Task Force to make recommendations to address the challenges arising from these events and I have since announced €225 million in supports utilising the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. This new programme provides for additional, longer term supports to enable our seafood sector to engage in transformational change and for our coastal communities to thrive.”

The EMFAF supports the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU Maritime Policy and the EU agenda for international ocean governance. Building on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014-2020, it provides supports to achieve food security through the supply of seafood products, growth of a sustainable blue economy and healthy, safe and sustainably managed seas and oceans.

Minister McConalogue in the preparations for the new EMFAF Seafood Development Programme, which runs up to 2027, has secured an increase in overall funding over the previous EMFF programme. The new EMFAF Seafood Development Programme envisages funding up to €258.4 million, which includes a €134 million EU contribution and a Government of Ireland contribution of €116 million.

The EMFAF Programme aims to support a diverse range of activities within the marine area. For fisheries, the Programme will support capital investment on board, capital investment ashore relating to the landing obligation, innovation in fishing gear and methods, technical advice to the fleet, acquisition of first vessel by young fishers, supports to the inshore fleet, training and marketing.

For aquaculture, the Programme will support implementation of the National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture. This will include in particular support for capital investment in aquaculture sites, supports for innovation and research to develop technology and enhance knowledge, advisory services, training and marketing.

For processing, the Programme will support capital investment in seafood processing enterprises, in particular to add value to raw material, enhance energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions, and enhance competitiveness. It will also support innovation to develop new products, advisory services, marketing and training.

The Programme will support the socio-economic development and diversification of coastal communities through the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups. This will carry on from the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme, implemented through the FLAGs over 2022/23, but will also have a broader remit to support community type projects.

The Programme will support Ireland's environmental obligations through a continuation of the EMFF Marine Biodiversity Scheme. This will fund appropriate assessment of fisheries and aquaculture activities, reporting on the Marine Strategy framework Directive, projects in support of the CFP, and species and habitat restoration.

The Programme will support enhancement of Ireland's knowledge of its marine environment, particularly in terms of enhancing knowledge of climate change impacts on fish stocks, habitats and species.

Lastly, the Programme will fund Ireland's compliance with its obligations under the CFP, specifically for fisheries protection and for fisheries management science. Minister McConalogue added:

“The programme has been developed in cooperation with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure we can help our seafood sector and coastal communities to maximise their potential while protecting our marine environment and its rich biodiversity.”

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014-2020 was established by EU regulation (508/2014). Ireland’s EMFF Programme was adopted in 2015 and was co-funded by the European Union and Government of Ireland. Through this joint funding €240 million was allocated to the programme.

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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue T.D, today delivered a record Budget provision for the seafood sector and coastal communities for 2023 of €335 million. The allocation represents a 62% increase in funding from 2022. This covers fisheries, aquaculture, seafood processing, fishery harbour development, marine research and conservation.

Commenting, Minister McConalogue said “Today's €335 million budget announcement for the seafood sector and coastal communities represents the largest ever annual budget provision for the sector. Over the past year I have announced a range of schemes worth €225 million, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, designed to support the seafood sector and coastal communities in overcoming the impact of Brexit. These schemes will run for the remainder of this year and for 2023 and the budget provision that the Government is making today will enable these schemes to be fully delivered. The schemes reflect the recommendations of the Seafood Task Force, which I established, and which are designed to ensure that the seafood sector and coastal communities post Brexit will continue to generate economic growth and sustainable jobs in coastal communities. Having listened to fishing representatives, and at their request, I established a second tie-up scheme worth €12m for this year to help alleviate fishers' marine fuel pressures. This Budget will include supports for energy costs for seafood processors.”

The schemes which have been implemented on foot of the Task Force recommendations are:

  • Temporary Tie-Up 2021 €10m
  • Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme €3.7m
  • Inshore Marketing Scheme €1m
  • Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme €35m
  • Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme €25m
  • Seafood Capital Processing Support Scheme €45m
  • Temporary Tie-Up 2022 Scheme €24m
  • Brexit Co-operative Transition Scheme € 1m
  • Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme €20m
  • Brexit Voluntary Decommissioning Scheme [open 12 9 22] €60m
  • Total of Seafood Taskforce Scheme announcements to date €224.7m

In addition, the Minister advised, “I am continuing to work on progressing the remaining recommendations of the Seafood Task Force. These schemes are being prepared at present, and I will be seeking to progress them to EU State Aid approval over the coming period.”

EU funding under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) for the period 2021-2027 is being progressed separately. This support is an enabler for sustainable fisheries and the conservation of marine biological resources, for food security through the supply of seafood products, for the growth of a sustainable blue economy and for healthy, safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans.

Minister McConalogue said, “I have recently secured Government approval for Ireland's €258 million Operational Programme for the seafood sector for the period 2021 to 2027. This programme is in addition to the €225 million worth of schemes that I have announced on foot of the Seafood Task Force recommendations. Today’s budget announcement for 2023 will enable the implementation of the Seafood Task Force recommendations and the new EMFAF Operational Programme during 2023.”

A number of important broader horizontal initiatives announced in the Government’s budget will also assist the seafood sector and coastal communities over the coming year. Commenting, the Minister said, “In discussion with industry over recent weeks, I am aware of the energy and fuel pressures facing fishers, aquaculture operators and processors. I am confident that measures such as the extra tie-up scheme, which was requested by the industry to alleviate Brexit impacts compounded by fuel pressures, will help fishers and the energy supports schemes announced by Government today will support processors.”

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Aquaculture businesses will “no longer be profitable” without significant supports to cope with “spiralling input costs”, a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture has heard.

The issues were highlighted by a delegation from IFA Aquaculture at this week’s committee hearing on Wednesday, September 21st.

Earlier this year, the European Commission activated a crisis mechanism within the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) to enable member states to grant financial compensation to aquaculture operators for income foregone and additional costs due to the current market disruption.

Funding to support fuel costs borne by the commercial fishing industry could also be drawn from this, according to the Commission, but so far the Government has failed to act on this.

IFA Aquaculture said it is “calling on the Government to consider these funding mechanisms made available by the European Commission to assist aquaculture operators affected by these severe cost increases... without delay”.

“It’s critical that a single piece of legislation is brought forward to implement and underpin appropriate aquaculture policy and bring together all the existing primary, secondary and amended legislation in one single provision,” Michael Mulloy of IFA Aquaculture said.

To achieve the objectives and specific actions outlined in the Seafood Development Programme 2021-2027, there must be “an immediate effort made to reform, modernise, and improve the aquaculture licensing system”, he added.

“Reducing the administrative burden and having an efficient, transparent aquaculture licensing system is of benefit to regulators, the industry and aquaculture stakeholders alike,” he said.

The Oireachtas committee hearing can be watched from 1.42 minutes here

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The Government today approved submission to the European Commission of the European Maritime Fisheries & Aquaculture Fund 2021-2027 - Seafood Development Programme.

The Seafood Development Programme, which will now be subject to adoption by the EU Commission, is worth up to €258.4 million and will make available significant funding to the seafood and marine sectors.

This new Programme represents an increased funding commitment from the €240 million allocated under the previous Programme under European Maritime & Fisheries Fund 2014 to 2020.

Announcing the decision, Minister McConalogue said; “I welcome Government’s approval of the new Seafood Development Programme 2021-2027. This new programme represents the Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting the seafood sector and coastal communities, as well as ensuring that our marine environment is maintained for future generations.”

Developed to implement the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, the Programme supports the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU maritime policy and the EU’s international commitments for international ocean governance and as such supports sustainable fisheries and the conservation of marine biological resources, for food security through the supply of seafood products, for the growth of a sustainable blue economy and for healthy, safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans. In addition to its important function to support the preservation of the marine environment, it is also a key source of funding for the development of the seafood sector including fishers, processors and aquaculture operators to support sustainable, economic growth in our coastal communities.

The programme was developed over the past two years in consultation with the public, stakeholders and the EU Commission. This programme is complementary and in addition to the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, €225 million worth of supports and developmental strategies that have been implemented by the Minister in 2021 & 2022. The supports followed the recommendations of the Seafood Task Force which was established by Minister McConalogue in response to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The implementation of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve supports, as recommended by the Seafood Taskforce, meant that this new Seafood Development Programme development timeframe was extended to ensure a coherent and long-term approach to supporting the seafood sector through the remainder of the EMFAF programme to the end of 2027. A final public consultation and statutory consultation on advanced drafts was concluded in early September.

Minister McConalogue added; “Over the past year, I have announced a range of schemes, worth €225 million, designed to support the seafood sector and coastal communities in overcoming the impact of Brexit. This new Programme will provide for further support to the sector over the coming years up to 2027 to ensure that it will not only survive, but transform to generate economic growth and sustain jobs. The Programme will also provide funding to state bodies which carry out important work in the marine environment to protect our coastal natural resources.”

Government approval of the Programme now means that it will be submitted to the EU Commission for adoption by the end of 2022.

The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) 2021 to 2027 is the successor to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014 to 2020 by which Ireland successfully implemented the previous Seafood Development Programme. Almost all of the funds available under EMFF have been committed and have resulted in a significant investment in Ireland’s marine sector and environment. It is expected that all funds will be expended by the end of programme.

The new Seafood Development Programme is a high-level framework for investment. It details the vision and key missions to be achieved by its implementation. It also demonstrates how the strategic objectives of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (specified in Regulation (EU) 2021/1139) will be employed in fulfilling the Programme.

The Programme aims to support a diverse range of activities within the marine area. Specifically, it aims to support Ireland's environmental obligations through a continuation of the EMFF Marine Biodiversity Scheme. This will fund appropriate assessment of fisheries and aquaculture activities, reporting on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, projects in support of the CFP, and species and habitat restoration.

The Programme also aims to support enhancement of Ireland's knowledge of its marine environment, particularly in terms of enhancing knowledge of climate change impacts on fish stocks, habitats and species.

Fishing

For fisheries, the Programme envisages support for capital investment on board, capital investment ashore relating to the landing obligation, innovation in fishing gear and methods, technical advice to the fleet, acquisition of first vessel by young fishers, supports to the inshore fleet, training and marketing.

Aquaculture

For aquaculture, the Programme envisages support for implementation of the National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture. This will include in particular, support for capital investment in aquaculture sites, supports for innovation and research to develop technology and enhance knowledge, advisory services, training and marketing. For processing, the Programme envisages support for capital investment in seafood processing enterprises, in particular, to add value to raw material, enhance energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions, and enhance competitiveness. It will also support innovation to develop new products, advisory services, marketing and training.

The Programme aims to support the socio-economic development and diversification of coastal communities through the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups. This will carry on from the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme, implemented through the FLAGs over 2022/23, but will also have a broader remit to support community-type projects.

Lastly, the Programme aims to fund Ireland's compliance with its obligations under the CFP, specifically for fisheries protection and for fisheries management science.

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Stakeholders are being invited to make submissions on a draft National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development 2030 (Plan).

The Plan provides a strategy for the sustainable development of aquaculture in Ireland over the next decade and has been developed using a ‘food systems’ approach in line with Food Vision 2030. It envisages an increasing partnership between the public and private sector to achieve the four overarching objectives as established by the new EU Strategic Guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture for the period 2021 to 2030.

On opening the consultation, Minister McConalogue said: “The Aquaculture sector has become a key part of Ireland’s seafood industry and has become a significant contributor to food supply for the Irish and export markets. This Plan will provide a roadmap to allow the sector to reach its potential in a sustainable manner, while also creating jobs and new opportunities for seafood businesses.”

The Plan was developed to build on the preceding plan which ran from 2015 to 2020 and aims to mainstream guidance for the sustainable development of EU aquaculture (2021 – 2030) into national aquaculture sector planning, inform the investment priorities for aquaculture in Ireland’s new Seafood Development Programme 2021-27 (EMFAF), and ensure that strategic planning for the aquaculture sector in Ireland responds to the latest thinking in terms of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for Irish aquaculture in order to promote the development of a sustainable and forward-looking sector.

The Plan which runs up to 2030 is based on four strategic objectives, including Building resilience and competitiveness, Participating in the green transition, Ensuring social acceptance and consumer information, and Increasing knowledge and innovation, with a significant number of actions under each.

Minister McConalogue added, “My recent announcement of the €20m Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme will provide immediate stimulus for aquaculture businesses to grow and meet the growing demand for Irish seafood. However, we also need to take a longer-term view on how aquaculture in Ireland can continue to develop into a more resilient and competitive industry, while also ensuring our coasts and natural environment are protected. The draft National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development 2030 contains actions to contribute to these important aims”

The draft Plan is available on gov.ie - Public consultation on the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development, 2030 (www.gov.ie) and the accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment will be available shortly. Submissions can be made to [email protected] . The closing date for submissions will be six weeks after the publications of the accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment. A specific closing date will be advised on gov.ie once the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessments are published.

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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has published its annual classification list for commercial shellfish (bivalve mollusc) production areas across Ireland.

This assesses 135 classifications in 60 production areas against strict safety requirements for human consumption.

Across Ireland, nine production areas received “upgrades” during the 2022 review of classifications, one production area received a shift in Seasonal A classification, twelve production areas received “downgrades”, one production area was de-classified for mussels, two production areas were declared as dormant, and two production areas received additional classifications, the SFPA says.

Ireland produces an estimated 28,100 tonnes of shellfish - including mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops - from classified production areas annually, the SFPA says.

An additional 2,700 tonnes of scallops are landed from offshore sites, it says.

Live shellfish can only be harvested from production areas which meet strict classification requirements for human consumption, as set out under European and Irish Food laws.

The SFPA, in collaboration with the shellfish industry, conducts regular shellfish sampling in all production areas, monitoring the levels of bacterial contamination of shellfish to determine the risk and classification status. Each production area is designated a rating that determines the conditions, if any, which need to be observed before shellfish can be sold for human consumption.

The Irish aquaculture sector is worth an estimated €64 million annually (at the first point of sale) and employs around 1,984 people across the country. Around 90% of shellfish produced in Ireland is exported, principally to European and Asian markets, and Ireland is the second largest producer of oysters in Europe after France, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said that Ireland’s shellfish monitoring programme was important for both consumers and commercial producers.

“One of the principal remits of the SFPA is to ensure that Irish and international consumers can be assured of the quality and safety of fish and seafood harvested here, and that we have sustainable stocks for generations to come,” he said.

“Shellfish production is an important industry in many coastal communities around Ireland and it is essential that the highest standards of food safety are maintained at all times,” he added.

“ The SFPA works in collaboration with industry and other state agencies to ensure that production areas are of the highest possible standard and meet rigorous assessment criteria to ensure that the safety and quality of the shellfish placed on the market is not compromised in any manner,” he said.

“ This work is an important pillar in both preserving and further enhancing Ireland’s global reputation for quality, safe and delicious seafood. It is incumbent upon all working in the industry to remain vigilant to any risks which have the potential to impact our seafood production areas and that we adopt a collective approach throughout with a focus on quality and sustainable seafood,” Hayes said.

Sinéad Keaveney, who is the Marine Institute’s shellfish microbiology team leader said that the publication of the classification list is the annual culmination of the ongoing partnership between the Marine Institute and SFPA in the microbiological monitoring of shellfish production areas in Ireland.

“As the National Reference Laboratory for monitoring E. coli contamination in bivalve shellfish, the Marine Institute oversees the national E. coli testing programme,” she said.

“ This contributes significantly to the assessment of the risk of microbiological contamination in shellfish production areas and the overall classification status of individual production areas,” she said.

The SFPA carries out its annual review of all shellfish classifications, drawing on the previous three-year dataset of microbiological results for classifications.

Escherichia coli (E.coli) is used as a proxy or faecal indicator; E.coli levels in shellfish samples are used to determine the classification status of production sites and determines the required harvesting protocols.

During the period January 2019 to January 2022, approximately 4,788 microbiological E.coli samples were taken by the SFPA and reviewed.

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Engineering, scientific and aquaculture entrepreneurs gathered for the annual Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Aquatech Community Day at Dogpatch Labs in Dublin’s CHQ Building on Tuesday, July 26.

The event, now in its fifth year, is the culmination of a month-long Innovation Studio where ten business start-ups from different disciplines took part in an intensive programme to help fast-track their business ideas for commercial viability in the Irish and global aquaculture industry.

To date, 46 start-ups have participated from BIM’s Innovation Studio, supported by the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund and run in partnership with global aquaculture accelerator Hatch.

The initiative has seen more than €13 million invested and g130+ new jobs generated in aquatech in Ireland.

Sound technology that monitors oyster welfare 

Lee Hunter, a young Donegal oyster farmer was among the start-ups taking part in this year’s programme. His business, The Oyster Pitch, uses sound technology to monitor oyster welfare and to reduce mortality.

Another 2022 Innovation Studio participant included Aquamontrix, a continuous real-time sensor technology to monitor nitrate and nitrite levels in sea water.

Pictured from left to right, Lee Hunter, Founder and CEO, The Oyster Pitch, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM and Tanja Hoel, Director at Hatch Innovation ServicesPictured from left to right, Lee Hunter, Founder and CEO, The Oyster Pitch, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM and Tanja Hoel, Director at Hatch Innovation Services

Fostering aquaculture discipline

Giving the opening address at the event, BIM CEO Jim O’Toole spoke about food security and the long-term strategy to develop and foster local aquaculture talent. This involves attracting other crucial disciplines like engineering, analytics and finance to help them develop Irish aquaculture businesses with a global reach.

“Investing in aquatech is specifically targeted in the Government’s Food Vision 2030 strategy and is something BIM is intent on delivering. Our ambition is to position Ireland as a global centre for aquaculture innovation and to support companies to grow and develop in this sector in collaboration with other agencies.”

Wayne Murphy, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Hatch, referred to the risk-taking intrinsic to entrepreneurship and central to the continued innovation and growth within aquatech in Ireland and globally. He referred to the initial approach Hatch made some 5 years earlier with BIM and how the State seafood development agency had been supportive from the outset.

“Aquatech has entrepreneurship at its core - and entrepreneurship is about risk-taking. BIM were enthusiastic partners when Hatch first approached the agency. 5 years on and 46 start-up businesses from a wide range of disciplines have taken the risk, creating more than 130 jobs.”

During a panel discussion with Teresa Morrissey, Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Aquaculture, Carsten Krome, Founder & Partner, Hatch, Martin Dempsey, Founder and CEO, Sealac Ltd. and Richard Donnelly, Shellfish and Salmon Manager, BIM, Richard Donnelly drew parallels with the IFSC’s ability to spur investment and innovation following its established three decades earlier.

“It is just 35 years since the IFSC was established. It is remarkable to consider how its establishment was truly visionary at the time, and how many other sectors followed in its path. The aquatech sector in Ireland has the potential to achieve this same effect.”

The global aquaculture industry is the fastest-growing food sector today. Its value exceeds €280 billion. The Irish aquaculture industry is currently valued at €175 million with primary production (fin-fish and shellfish farming) at its core.

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A 20 million euro scheme to support the Irish aquaculture sector affected by Brexit has been approved by the European Commission under EU State aid rules.”

The scheme is aimed at “mitigating the adverse impact on employment in the coastal communities, by supporting the development of an alternative source of raw material supply for seafood processors and by enhancing the viability of aquaculture companies”, the European Commission has said in a statement.

It will be open to aquaculture producers who will “purchase and install new machinery and equipment, as well as construct new premises, with the aim of increasing the production, enhancing the quality of the aquaculture products or substantially increasing energy efficiency”, the Commission says.

It explains that the aid will take the form of direct grants, covering up to 50% of the actual investment costs. The scheme will run until December 31st, 2023.

The plan is to finance it under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR), which was set up to mitigate the economic and social impact of Brexit, subject to approval under the specific provisions governing funding from that instrument.

The Government has already said that the Seafood Task Force recommendations relating to dealing with the negative impacts of Brexit in relation to substantial loss of fish quotas and market disruption after Britain withdrew from the EU are due to be funded through the BAR.

The Commission assessed the measures under relevant legislation and guidelines, and found that the scheme facilitates the development of an economic activity and does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest.

On this basis, the Commission says, it approved the Irish measure under EU State aid rules.

It says the non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.102229 in the State aid register on the Commission's competition website, once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Fishing and seafood organisations say they are “shocked and disappointed” at the Minister for Marine’s failure to address the fuel crisis facing the sector.

A joint statement from eight representative organisations calls on the Government and marine minister, Charlie McConalogue, to set up a national scheme and draw down existing EU funds to cover extra fuel costs.

The statement follows a lengthy meeting with Mr McConalogue earlier this week, which the minister had described as “productive”.

However, the eight organisations have warned that the survival of the entire seafood sector is at stake and that he must “act now”.

On July 6th, the same day as the meeting with Mr McConalogue, the European Parliament had voted to allocate unused funds in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to tackle the fuel crisis.

“Some member states have had a quick and effective response, leading to a reduction of fuel prices for fishing vessels,” the joint statement by the organisations says.

“ Others such as Ireland, have refused to compensate their fishermen - a response which has sparked port blockades in, for example, the Netherlands,” the statement says.

‘’There is no excuse for the minister to delay in immediately setting up a national scheme to cover the additional costs, particularly fuel -the EU funding is there,” the statement continues.

“Failure to act is a major threat to the survival of the fishing/seafood sector, which is worth € 1.26 billion to the Irish economy. It’s also a blow for the coastal communities which depend on our sector for their survival,” it says.

“We are disappointed that the Minister did not announce a scheme at our meeting last night. However, we do expect he will act, having reflected on the magnitude of the crisis very clearly articulated by us at the meeting.”

The joint statement was issued on behalf of the delegation which met the minister. 

They include the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO), the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture (IFA Aquaculture), the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

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Eight Irish fishing industry groups have warned that traditional fish and chips “may not be on Irish restaurant summer menus” due to Government inaction on high energy prices.

“Rising fuel prices are crippling the Irish seafood sector, including fishermen, aquaculture producers and fish processors,” Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), has warned.

He says the crisis is “a threat to food security”.

Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers OrganisationAodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation

The seafood sector says it is calling on the Government to “act now to claim available EU funds to compensate the seafood sector and get the situation under control”.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for Marine Charlie McConalogue

A joint statement issued in advance of a meeting with Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue this week has been issued by the eight groups.

They include the IFPO the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture division, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

"The crisis is a threat to food security"

IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne says the European Commission adopted a ‘Temporary Crisis Framework’ for the seafood sector on March 23rd.

“This was to enable member states to use the flexibility of State aid rules to compensate for high energy prices,” Byrne says.

“In addition to this, just two days later, the commission activated a crisis mechanism to grant financial compensation for lost income and additional costs, because of seafood market disruption. It was activated under the umbrella of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) ”he says.

The EMFAF crisis mechanism is a temporary measure and applies retrospectively as of 24th February 2022 and will be in place until the end of 2022.

Enda Conneely of the IIMROEnda Conneely of the IIMRO

Enda Conneely of the IIMRO says the Irish government has “abjectly failed to act, despite jobs already being in jeopardy”.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery, of the Fisheries Local Action Groups, says the seafood sector has a crucial role in the Irish economy.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin FlanneryMarine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery

“The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Business of Seafood report for 2021 clearly shows the vital importance of the seafood industry to the economy of our fishing communities sustaining over 16,000 jobs. These jobs are mainly located in peripheral areas. So, any job losses will hit hardest at the heart of our coastal and maritime communities,” Dr Flannery says.

John Lynch of the IS&EFPO also says that “the Irish government is failing to activate the funding made available by the EU for the seafood industry.

“Meanwhile French, Spanish and many of our fellow EU compatriots who fish our seas are receiving targeted benefits to aid their seafood sectors and enabling them to continue operations,” Lynch says.

“We need to prevent a wipeout of the seafood industry which threatens our ability to make a significant contribution to EU food security. In order to do this, we must be on a level playing field with our EU counterparts.”

Norah Parke, on behalf of KFO, says her organisation supports the Irish fishing industry’s stance.“

“We appeal for immediate action by the government before many vessel owners, processors and suppliers reach a point of no return. This is due to the unsustainable spiral of costs facing the fishing industry and further supply chain. It is incomprehensible that there is a solution available which is not being used,” she says.

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPOPatrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO says “we have a united Irish seafood industry of fishing, fish processing, and aquaculture sectors. Together we demand that the Irish government act now”.

“The Minister for the Marine must at least activate the provision granted by the EU Commission to release essential funds immediately,” Murphy says.

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!