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Ministers Coughlan and Browne launch major scheme to restructure Irish fishing fleet

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D. and John Browne T.D., Minister of State at the Department, today launched a scheme to permanently remove fishing vessels from Ireland's fishing fleet. This voluntary scheme will remove older and larger fishing vessels with mixed catches of fish such as cod, haddock, monkfish, mackerel and herring. The removal of these vessels will increase the quotas available to the more modern competitive fishing vessels and will ensure a more sustainable and profitable fleet.

This investment in the future of the catching sector will permanently remove some 75 boats from the Irish fleet. The scheme delivers on a key recommendation of the Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Seafood Industry 2007 to 2013 - Steering A New Course also known as the Cawley Report.

Minister Coughlan said "The aim of this scheme is to bring about a viable future for the fishing sector and support the economies of those coastal communities dependent on fishing. The government has invested a €21 million budget for the scheme in 2008 with a further €21 million committed in 2009. I will pursue further funding, in line with the recommendations of the Cawley report, as required, taking account of the take up under the scheme. This programme represents a very substantial commitment to bringing the Irish fishing fleet into balance with available resources and ensuring that those remaining in the industry can be assured of a profitable future. The recently published Finance Bill contains a number of measures specifically designed to reduce the tax burden on fishermen taking up this scheme."

The scheme is open to vessels owners in respect of fishing vessels 10 years or more in age and 18 metres or more in overall length. Vessels must be operational at the time of decommissioning and have a recent track record of fishing. The level of payments under the scheme are determined based on criteria including the age of the vessel and its catch history but will not exceed in any case €7,500 per gross tonne.

Minister Coughlan added "The Seafood Strategy sets down the road map for the development of the sector. We must focus on sustainability of fish stocks and maximising the return from the fish catch. Already good progress has been made, in line with the Cawley strategy, on delivering a more innovative and co-ordinated approach to the marketing and processing of seafood in order to maximise the value at every stage from the sea to the table. We are determined to press ahead to deliver on the full range of recommendations, of which decommissioning is an important step, and in so doing to secure the future for our coastal communities dependent on fishing."

Minister Browne said "The scheme we are launching today is voluntary and is aimed at giving those who wish to retire or take up other employment opportunities a financially attractive package that reflects the level of investment and commitment they have already given to this industry. Vessel owners who opt to remain in the industry can be confident that they face a more secure future and will have access to increased fish quotas to secure their financial viability".

The closing date for receipt of all applications under this scheme is 5.00 PM on Wednesday 30th April 2008.

Details of the scheme are available by contacting:

Fleet Development Section
BIM
P.O Box 12
Crofton Road
Dún Laoghaire
Co. Dublin

Tel: 01-214-4100

Or details can be downloaded from the BIM website at www.bim.ie

Editors Notes:

Key Points of the Scheme:

  • The scheme provides for withdrawal premiums (decommissioning grants), for the permanent withdrawn of fishing vessels from the whitefish sector of the Irish fishing fleet and their removal from the EU register of sea fishing vessels.
  • The scheme delivers on the recommendations of the Seafood Industry Strategy Review Group and complements the earlier, successful, 2005 - 2006 decommissioning programme. It also continues delivery of the central recommendation of the White Report, 'that a national decommissioning programme is the best way of taking out the necessary fishing capacity so that those remaining in the sector can look forward to working in a fishing industry with good economic prospects'.
  • The 2007 Decommissioning Scheme sets itself the target of removing a further 11,140 GTs from the polyvalent and beam trawl segments of the whitefish fleet. This, together with the 3,178 GTs already removed from the whitefish sector accomplished during the first phase of decommissioning, represents the full programme of decommissioning recommended by the Seafood Industry Strategy Review Group and provided for in the National Development Plan 2007 - 2013.
  • The scheme is open to vessels owners in respect of fishing vessels that:
    • Are registered in the polyvalent or beam trawl segments of the Irish fleet.
    • Are operational at the time the decision is taken to grant the withdrawal premium.
    • Are 15 years or more in age at the time of application
  • The scheme is also open to vessels owners in respect of fishing vessels that are 10 years or more in age (at the time of application), but only in respect of applications received in the defined time period that score 50 points or more based on an assessment of the selection criteria
    • Are 18 metres or more in overall length.
    • Have carried out a fishing activity for at least 75 days at sea in both of the two periods of 12-months preceding the 31st December 2007, or, have carried out a fishing activity for at least 150 days at sea in the 12-month period preceding the 31st December 2007.
  • The scheme will provide a basic payment of €1,000 per GT for successful applicant plus an additional payment of €2,500 per GT for those with tradable or transferable tonnage.
  • In addition to the basic decommissioning payment, the scheme provides a 'catch incentive premium' of up to €3,000 per GT based on the declared landings (in every case tonnes live weight) of specified whitefish stocks and up to 1/3 of the catch of non-specified stocks.
  • In addition to both the basic decommissioning payment and the catch incentive premium, the scheme further provides a pelagic premium of €1,000 per GT for vessels over 65 feet (19.81 metres) who decommission a vessel licensed without a 'mackerel and herring preclusion.
  • However under no circumstances will public aid for decommissioning paid to beneficiaries exceed €7,500 per GT for qualifying vessels over 65 feet (19.81 metres) licensed without a 'mackerel and herring preclusion', or €6,500 per GT in the case of all other qualifying vessels.

Table of events

Timetable

Opening of Scheme 20th February 2008
Final Date For receipt of Applications
(closing date)
Wednesday 30th April 2008
Letter of Offer Issue Within 6 weeks from the closing date
Final Date for Acceptance Within 4 weeks from the issuing of the letter of offer
Final Date for Surrender of Licence Within 12 weeks from the issuing of the letter of offer
Payment of first 50% Within 3 weeks of the surrender of the licence
Final Date for completion of Payment 2nd 50% This payment will be made between 1st January 2009 and the 30th June 2009.

Date Released: 20 February 2008