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Minister Coughlan meets Federation of Irish Fishermen

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Mary Coughlan T.D., accompanied by her colleague Minister of State John Browne T.D., today met with representatives of the major fishermens' organisations at Agriculture House in Dublin.

Among the issues discussed were progress on the implementation of the new Seafood Strategy and the future development of the sector.

After the meeting, the Minister said "I welcomed the opportunity to meet with the catching side of the industry to discuss important issues of concern to them and I listened carefully to the case put forward by them. I intend to work with the Federation and also to use the contacts I have built up at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council to pursue Ireland's interests at EU level".

The Minister said that she and her colleague John Browne T.D. will work as a team to deliver on the key priorities for the industry as set out in the Programme for Government.

Minister Coughlan said that following a long and constructive meeting all parties fully endorsed the new Seafood Strategy that had resulted from the excellent work of the Review Group led by Dr Noel Cawley, and she noted that all are committed to working positively to deliver on the outcomes. In that regard, the Minister assured the industry that it was a priority to get EU Commission agreement on a new decommissioning scheme as early as possible.

Minister Coughlan welcomed the establishment of the Federation which gives a single voice to fishermen right around the coastline. The Minister assured the Federation that she and her officials are committed to regular contact with the industry in the future and agreed to meet again in the autumn.

11 July, 2007

Notes for Editors
  • Federation of Irish Fishermen

    In November 2006 the four main fishing organisations (Irish South and West Fishermen's Organisation (ISWFPO), Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation (KFO), Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and East Fishermen's Organisation (ISEFPO), united into one representative organisation for the catching sector, to be called the Federation of Irish Fishermen.
    The Federation advises that it represents over 90% of full-time fishing vessels over 12 metres in length in the country.

  • Seafood Strategy

    1. Cawley Report and Implementation
    The Seafood Strategy Review Group (Cawley Group) was established in June 2006 under the chairmanship of Dr Noel Cawley supported by Mr Joey Murrin and Mr Ruain O Bric. The objective was to consult with all stakeholders to devise a strategy for the 2007-13 period for the delivery of a sustainable and profitable seafood industry in Ireland.

    The establishment of the Cawley Group, and its analysis of the current state of the Seafood Industry, coincides with the ending of the current National Development Plan (NDP), and the advent of the NDP 2007-13.

    This report has been produced following very extensive consultation with all stakeholders and analysis of the wide ranges issues and challenges facing the Seafood Industry. The Group concludes that the industry can have a profitable future based on sustainably managed fisheries delivering premium seafood products to the expanding high-value market. The Group recommends a quantified aid package to transform the industry over the period of the NDP and place it on a secure and profitable footing for the future.

    Key findings of the Cawley Group report

    The Irish Seafood Industry is an indigenous industry based on the utilisation of a renewable and highly prized natural resource, which produces a healthy, nutritious and highly marketable food. It generates total annual revenues of €702m and provides direct employment for 11,665 people.

    Therefore, this industry is critical for the sustainable economic and social development of coastal communities right around the coast. The National Spatial Strategy 2000-2020 has identified the development of marine industries as critical to the future prosperity of these areas.

    In turn, the Industry is dependent on sustainable fish stocks and a healthy marine environment. With over 75% of fish stocks having been exploited beyond safe biological limits, the Irish Industry is facing serious challenges to its future development, and survival, due to declining stocks and fishing quotas and the consequent structural imbalances that have developed at catching and processing levels. The strategy presented is predicated on immediate voluntary down sizing of the fishing fleet to bring it into balance with the available quotas.

    However, there is buoyant demand for seafood both domestically and in key export markets. The report strongly recommends that capturing this clear and growing market opportunity must be the guiding light for all development activity within the Industry. To avail of this opportunity, key structural challenges must be addressed in order to improve competitiveness, profitability and sustainability and move the Industry through the challenges of this period of transition.

    Cost to Exchequer of Strategy

    The Government endorsed the main recommendations of the plan and agreed to provide State aid support of €216 million, which is set down in the new National Development Plan (NDP). The NDP also provides that a further €118 million may be made available over the life of the plan under the Cawley proposals, which will be available to the sector on the basis of verified progressive change as set out in the Cawley Report.

    Implementation

    The Minister set up a Seafood Strategy Implementation Group, under the Chairmanship of Dr Noel Cawley, representing a wide section of the sector and Government Agencies. The Implementation Group has been charged with overseeing the implementation of the strategy. The Group has already met three times, most recently on Monday this week 9th July.

    2. Decommissioning of the fleet

    The Cawley group recommended a voluntary scheme to remove 45% of the capacity of the demersal fleet by extending the current Whitefish Fleet Decommissioning Scheme (which has so far removed 10% of the capacity). This has been strongly supported across the fishing organisations. The report also recommends that further analysis be undertaken on the extent, timing and funding of a decommissioning scheme for smaller vessels.

    Taking into account the modest level of takeup under the decommissioning scheme launched in 2005, the Cawley Group recommended an up to 50% increase in the aid level paid for decommissioning of vessels. This level of aid may only be paid under the new rules of the EU Fisheries Fund. Under the EU rules for the Fisheries Fund, a national strategic plan must be submitted to the Commission (draft plan with Commission), an Operational Programme comprising an External Evaluation process (including an independent strategic environment assessment) must be completed and the EU Commission must approve new State Aid rules. These are demanding and time consuming steps which are currently in progress.

    As the decommissioning of fishing vessels is a priority action, the Department is in discussions with the Commission with a view to securing a Stand Alone separate approval for the programme in advance of the full Operational Programme. Some €15m has been set aside in the BIM budget to allow for payments under the decommissioning scheme this year.

Date Released: 11 July 2007