Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill has ruled out a local fishing vessel decommissioning scheme and reaffirmed her commitment to providing financial support to assist with fleet modernisation and improved operational efficiency.
Commenting on her decision Minister O’Neill said: “The justification for having a decommissioning scheme is that the financial performance of fishing vessels that remain in the fleet would improve because they would benefit from the fishing quotas released by those vessels that opt for decommissioning. However, to ensure that these benefits are maintained for the long term the scheme must have safeguards to prevent the fleet sectors from subsequently growing in size.
“Controlling the future size of the fleet is absolutely fundamental to the proposal for a decommissioning scheme and failure to limit future fleet size would completely undermine the purpose of the public investment. The industry is opposed to this but without such a control mechanism it would be impossible to have a robust business case that would demonstrate that public investment in fleet restructuring represented good value for money. As a consequence I have decided not to proceed with a decommissioning scheme.”
Referring to the funding previously earmarked for decommissioning, Minister O’Neill continued: “There are opportunities available currently to the local industry to obtain grants to modernise their vessels. This funding measure is worth some £2.5million and to date grants totalling around £0.5million have been awarded. I’m aware that some vessel owners may have deferred their plans to modernise their vessel pending a decision on decommissioning and it is anticipated that further grant applications will now be made. My Department is completing a review of all funding allocations within the European Fisheries Fund to ensure that they are fully utilised and reallocated to other measures where demand for financial support is likely to exceed the approved budgets. This review will include consideration of how best to utilise the funding that had been earmarked for decommissioning for the benefit of the fishing industry and the communities in which they are based.”