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Gildernew meets Trawlerman

12 February, 2008

Sinn Féin Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has met with representatives of the North of Ireland Trawlermen's Trading Company to discuss the impact of high fuel costs.

Speaking after the meeting the Minister said:

"I took this opportunity to meet again, face to face, with representatives of the fishing industry to hear some of the problems currently facing the fleet. I acknowledge that the combined forces of increasing fuel costs and fluctuations in market prices are making things difficult for the fishermen. This meeting provided an opportunity to discuss these issues and examine how the industry might adapt to meet the changing circumstances.

"It is predicted that, in the long term, rising fuel costs are something that we will all have to get used to. The fishing industry already enjoys exemptions from fuel duty and the new round of European Funding will include provision of financial aid to help the industry become more fuel efficient.

"I encouraged the fishermen to look closely at the measures available and examine the potential for significant savings through a range of engineering and technical solutions".

Under the new European Fisheries Fund up to £25million of investment could be available for the fishing industry in North of Ireland. Grant assistance up to a level of 40% is available to vessels to fit replacement engines that are more fuel efficient, but there are strict conditions to make sure that such modifications do not increase fishing effort capacity.

Other measures to reduce fuel costs may include the use of bio-fuels in fishing vessels, gear technology that reduces fuel consumption, audits of vessels to identify where fuel can be saved and vessel engineering solutions that reduce fuel consumption.

Discussing the poor prices recently experienced by the prawn boat sector, the Minister went on to say:

"Several factors have contributed to the significant variation in the price of prawn tails over the last year. I appreciate that this makes things difficult when prices fall, but government cannot intervene in market prices.

"I welcome recent industry led initiatives on marketing of produce and group buying. I believe this will help the fishermen to get higher returns and lower costs and make them more able to adjust to price variations, which are inevitable." ENDS

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