Gildernew sets out way ahead for the fishing industry
Sinn Féin Fisheries Minister, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has outlined her future vision for the North's fishing industry in a statement to the Assembly.
Speaking in the Assembly, the Minister said:
"I believe that all the key stakeholders in the industry must work together to address the economic difficulties which the industry faces and develop a long-term strategic approach to achieving a profitable and sustainable future.
"I want to build a consensus on how we achieve the maximum possible return for each ton of fish landed, how we deal with the fragmentation and lack of profitability in the sector, how we develop management approaches which reflect the local need and on how to build an improved and productive relationship between the industry, fishery scientists and managers and other stakeholders."
The minister said she was setting up a new Fisheries Forum in which key stakeholders and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) would work together to develop a strategic plan to address long-term issues. The Minister also said that she was commissioning an update of previous work on the future shape of the local fleet to help inform the debate about catching capacity and resource availability, which would include an assessment of the modernisation needs for the fleet.
Moving to the issue of fuel costs assistance the minister discussed the current wider economic consequences of rising fuel costs, but noted that:
"I have decided that it is more appropriate to focus on a longer-term strategic plan and in consultation with my Executive colleagues I want to see a focus on improving fuel efficiency in the fleet using the European Fisheries Fund as appropriate. Pending EFF being available later in the year I have asked my officials to explore the scope to use existing resources providing assistance to specific capital investments to improve fuel efficiency where this can be justified."
During her statement she also announced £100,000 assistance to meet the costs of the Vessel Monitoring System, covering installation and warranty of the tamper resistant system for a further two years, this includes transmission costs which each vessel owner has to pay when the vessel is tracked by the satellite monitor.
The Minister concluded her statement by announcing changes to the days at sea and vessel licensing arrangements intending to provide greater flexibility to the local fishing fleet. Under these arrangements fishing vessels would have the opportunity to fish at the same level of days as they were allocated for 2007.