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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018
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Recovering from the rains: Fishing industry battles on

However, funding remains a significant hindrance to many fishermen.

Skerries Harbour.
Skerries Harbour.
Image: William Murphy via Flickr/Creative Commons

EU FUNDS TO help the fishermen left out of pocket after severe winter weather will not be made available in Ireland until later this year.

This is despite officials in Brussels noting that this funding can be accessed retrospectively.

The new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) will be used to pay financial compensation to fishermen for economic losses caused by adverse weather.

CEO at Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation Eibhlin O’Sullivan has said this is urgently needed for fishermen in Ireland.

MEP Alain Cadec, Vice-Chair of  the Committee on Fisheries, noted that although the fund enters into force in May, “it will apply retroactively for funding applications submitted from 1 January”.

Northern Ireland is already accepting applications for funding under this new measure.

Dismissed

However, Minister for Marine Simon Coveney dismissed the suggestion of using the fund in this manner.

“Some have been calling on me to do this and deal with the issue retrospectively in six or eight months time when we hope people will be fishing and have had a good middle of the year,” he told the Dáil.

“It would be naive and foolish of me to look to spend money when we do not even know how much we will have to spend and I do not have access to it.”

In a statement, the Department said that it “is working to prepare a new 7-year Operational Programme for the seafood sector under the EMFF”.

Finalised

It it unlikely to be finalised until later this year, the statement said.

“In order that vessel owners and their crews are enabled to compensate as early as possible for these low catch levels [over the winter], allocations for March were set for a number of the key economic stocks at a higher level than in February,” the Department also noted.

Eibhlin O’Sullivan told TheJournal.ie the fishing industry is still struggling to recover after the relentless storms that battered the country over the winter.

Storms Hit Ireland Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

By the fishing industry’s definition of ‘bad weather’, there were 40 days of it, making it the worst winter for the industry in five years.

The government has introduced measures to help fishermen to repair equipment after the weather.

Almost €9 million was released for the repair of the publicly owned pier, harbour and slipway network linked to fisheries and aquaculture.

Another €1.5 million has been allocated to assist inshore fishermen who may have lost lobster, shrimp, or crab pots during the storms.

However, this has not been appropriate for many fishermen working in the industry for many years and who may not still have receipts for the pots, something required to receive funding.

Social welfare

O’Sullivan also noted that many farmers face issues when applying for social welfare payments.

During the worst weather, many boats were unable to leave harbours for several weeks, leaving a large swathe of the industry without any income.

However, as the vast majority count of fishermen count as self-employed, they must be means-tested before they can received a payment.

As capital assets are taken into account, fishermen are sometimes required to sell their boats before payment can be received – something not feasible for short-term unemployment.

These factors, O’Sullivan believes, combined with the huge loss in income many fishermen and trawler crews suffered over the winter, and the associated effect it had on local communities  that rely on this income, there may be large swatches of the industry declaring bankruptcy in months to come.

“Ireland is failing behind the rest of Europe,” she said.

Representatives from the fishing industry are due to meet with government later this week at the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Read: Atlantic mackerel deal thrashed out but Iceland holds firm and doesn’t sign >

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Nicky Ryan

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