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Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme Announced

12th January 2022
Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue
Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue

Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue today announced a support scheme for the inshore fisheries sector to assist inshore fishers in adjusting to the impacts of Brexit on their businesses. The Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme delivers on a recommendation of the Report of the Seafood Task Force – Navigating Change (October 2021). The scheme will be implemented under de minimus rules and is proposed for funding under the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

Announcing the Scheme, Minister McConalogue said: “The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the UK had significant negative impacts for our fishing industry. Our inshore fishers have been particularly and uniquely impacted by logistical and route to market difficulties as exporters of live shellfish and other highly perishable seafood products. These difficulties have added costs to the business model of our inshore fishers and in reducing the shelf life of these highly perishable products have impacted negatively on the sector.

“I am announcing today a forward-looking support scheme to assist inshore fishers in adjusting their business model to the post Brexit market environment. The scheme will take the form of a suite of four online training modules to be made available by BIM, specifically tailored to the inshore fishing sector, with a payment to owners of inshore fishing vessels to assist them with the costs of undertaking the training and subsequently adjusting their business and marketing plans. The scheme will be open to owners of fishing vessels under 18 metres in length, registered in the polyvalent, polyvalent potting and specific segments. As recommended by the Seafood Task Force, these one-off payments will be €2,700 for owners of vessels under 8 metres in length and €4,000 for owners of vessels between 8 metres and 17.99 metres in length”.

The Scheme will operate from January to March 2022 and will be administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Further details will be available from BIM in due course here

For vessel owners to be eligible, they must demonstrate that they were actively fishing during the period January to June 2021. The scheme will specify requirements in this respect.

Seafood Task Force

In March 2021, Minister McConalogue set up the Seafood Sector Task Force to examine the implications for the Irish Fishing industry and coastal communities particularly dependent upon it arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement, agreed between the European Union and the UK. The Task Force, chaired by Aiden Cotter, was charged with recommending initiatives that could be taken to provide supports for development and restructuring, so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing.

Minister McConalogue received the Task Force report on 11 October 2021. The report recommended 16 support schemes at a total estimated cost of €423 million. The recommendations include voluntary decommissioning schemes for the white fish fleet and inshore fleet to restore those fleets to viability, supports for temporary cessation of fishing activities, capital investment in seafood processing enterprises, in aquaculture enterprises and in publicly owned marine infrastructure, and investment to diversify the economies of our coastal communities through a community led local development initiative through the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups. These stakeholder recommendations are being urgently examined across Government with particular regard to available funds, eligibility of the recommended measures for funding under the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve and with regard to State Aid rules and the Public Spending Code.

Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme

The scheme announced today delivers on recommendation 2.5.2 (inshore short-term support). The four training modules to be delivered through the scheme are as follows:

Module 1 - Adjusting your Seafood Business Plan post Brexit
This module will provide participants with the core skills, understanding and tools to adapt their own professional business plan to develop or stabilise their seafood operation which is needed as a result of the new market conditions due to Brexit.

Module 2 - Reaching new customers - tailored digital skills for inshore fishing businesses
This module will raise awareness of the opportunities that exist for inshore fishers to reach customers directly online and engage participants so that they develop a new interest in digital skills training to help them further their business interests online.

Module 3 - Alternative Market Opportunities for your Inshore Catch

This module will provide inshore fishers with knowledge on alternative markets and how they can exploit them as well as how to direct sell their catch.

Module 4 - Understanding your Market and Maximising the Return from your Inshore Catch
This module will provide the inshore sector with an overview of the market for inshore species, the market requirements for these species and the characteristics of good and bad product. It will provide information on how inshore fishers can improve the quality of product provided to the market and the economic benefits from doing so.

Demonstration of fishing activity

For vessels to be eligible, they must demonstrate they were actively fishing in 2021 as follows:

For vessels greater than or equal to 10 metres in length, they must demonstrate that they were active during January to June 2021 through logbook data showing a minimum of 30 days fishing activity.

For vessels under 10 metres in length, they must demonstrate that they were active during January to June 2021 through Sales Notes data showing landings of a minimum value of €1,000. If an error has been made by a fisherman or his/her agent or customer and Sales Notes have not been uploaded to the SFPA Sales Notes system for whatever reason, the applicant should arrange for the error be corrected appropriately. Applicants who feel they have a valid reason for not having their catch recorded on the Sales Notes system may submit an appeal to BIM. In the case of such appeals, where Sales Notes data cannot demonstrate the requisite fishing activity, certain verified sales invoices may be accepted by BIM. These must demonstrate compliance with the following statutory requirements:

  • Maximum quantity of 30 kg per week to a final consumer or to a local retail establishment supplying directly to the final consumer.
  • Maximum value of €50 per day per final consumer.
Published in Fishing
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Irish Fishing industry 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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