Gildernew visits Fishing Ports
Sinn Féin Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA is visiting Kilkeel, Ardglass and Portavogie fishing ports ahead of the crucial December Council negotiations in Brussels.
The December Council (from 17-20 December in Brussels) determines fishing opportunities for Northern Ireland's fishermen in 2008.
The Minister said:
"I wanted to be able to talk with fishermen and their representatives about the challenges ahead and my priorities for the Council, and to see at first hand, the investment that has been made in the ports and facilities through the EU funds administered by my Department.
"I plan to meet with Mary Coughlan, and next week I will be meeting with Commissioner Borg in Brussels on fisheries issues.
"I want to be a strong voice for the fishing industry here. I have been working with Ministerial colleagues Richard Lochhead, Elin Jones and Jonathan Shaw to ensure that Irish sea issues are given due importance in the negotiating priorities.
"This will be a difficult round of negotiations. The Commission is proposing 25% cuts in days at sea for both prawn and whitefish vessels which would have a very detrimental impact on our fleet.
"In terms of the other key stocks the Commission is proposing cuts of 15% for haddock, 9% for herring, 6% for plaice and 25% for cod. There is therefore a great deal at stake and I shall be doing my utmost to ensure that I get the very best deal for our industry."
During her visit to the ports the Minister saw projects which had been supported by the current FIFG (Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance) programme which has invested £8.5m in improving the infrastructure of fisheries harbours.
The Minister also visited Rooney Foods (a prawn and scallop factory) in Kilkeel which has received a 40% grant on a £635,000 project to improve freezing, processing and packing facilities at the factory.
The Minister highlighted the new European Fisheries Fund which will come into operation late next year and other forms of support being made available to the industry.
"The £12.76m (€18.1m) grant available from the commission will be matched by a grant from DARD. Many of the initiatives supported under the fund would also require private sector investment in particular for projects in areas such as processing, marketing and aquaculture. All together, over the next 7 years it is proposed through the draft budget that £25 million of public funds will go towards the fishing industry."
"I want to make sure that the public investment available makes a real difference to our fishing industry so that we can have a safe and modern fishing fleet that is profitable and sustainable and capable of helping to strengthen the economy in coastal areas."
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Each year the European Commission requests advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas on the state of fish stocks and management scenarios. This advice is used draw up the draft "Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and Quota" Regulation for the year ahead. As well as setting TACs the Regulation also includes limits on fishing days (effort control) to be used with various fishing gear types in sea areas affected by cod and sole recovery plans.
- On 27 July 2006 a new European Fisheries Fund (EFF) was approved by EC Regulation 1198/2006 to replace the current fishery grants programme under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG). The North of Ireland share of the EFF is £12.76m.
- The EFF will run for seven years, with a total budget of around € 3.8 billion. Funding will be available for all sectors of the industry - sea and inland fisheries, aquaculture businesses, producer organisations, and the processing and marketing sectors - as well as for fisheries areas. It is a matter for Member States to decide how they allocate funds between the different priorities set. The Fund will particularly focus on:
- supporting the major objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), particularly those agreed during the reform of the policy in 2002. This includes in particular the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources and achieving a stable balance between these resources and the capacity of community fishing fleet;
- strengthening the competitiveness and the viability of operators in the sector;
- promoting environmentally-friendly fishing and production methods;
- providing adequate support to people employed in the sector; and
- fostering the sustainable development of fisheries areas.
Under the Commission's rules the EU grant must be matched by public expenditure. Funding will be available for all sectors - sea and inland fisheries, aquaculture businesses, producer organisations, processing and marketing businesses - as well as for fisheries community areas. Some of the initiatives will require EU and national grant to be supplemented by private sector investment.