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Ireland must harness huge seafood sector potential - Coveney

      New Funding for Seafood companies, a scheme to provide special assistance to young fishermen and a Report on the economic dependence of Castletownbere area on the seafood industry to inform fisheries policy 

Visiting Castletownbere this weekend, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD,  announced a 'Special Assistance for Young Fishermen' scheme. Fishermen under 40 years of age who have not previously owned a fishing vessel can avail of grant aid up to 15% (to a maximum of €50,000) of the acquisition cost of a second-hand whitefish vessel.

Speaking about the scheme the Minister called it, "a positive stepping stone for future entrepreneurship within the fishing industry".  He also highlighted how "new blood and fresh thinking are essential for the ongoing development of any industry.  This Scheme will assist and enable young fishermen who have a proven track record within the sector to set themselves up as managers of their own vessels, set their own targets and goals, and hopefully impart their knowledge to those they take on to work with them."

The Minister also announced €84,000 in grant aid for seven seafood companies in the Cork area under the BIM Seafood Value Adding Scheme (see attachment).  The grant aid underpins an overall investment of €213,500 in the area.

As he announced the grant aid, the Minister congratulated the companies on their successful projects, "Focusing on innovating and adding value will secure a long term, competitive future for Irish seafood companies. It is heartening to witness the level of ingenuity and creativity coming from these companies, backed by a sound business capacity. It really bodes well for the seafood industry’s future in Cork."

The Minister has also requested that BIM would begin a comprehensive economic survey of the Castletownbere area to determine the level of seafood activity in the area and establish its economic importance for the region. Minister Coveney said "This Report will provide hard economic evidence on the dependence and economic importance of seafood in the region. This will help to inform future policy making for the area at Local, National and EU level. With the completion of world class harbour facilities in Castletownbere in the coming months it is vitally important that everybody can work together to maximise the true economic potential of the Region.  I feel this study by BIM, highlighting the economic importance of the Seafood sector for the Region, will help to drive on the development of the industry in West Cork and Castletownbere in particular".

Adding value to Irish seafood is a key strategic driver for BIM as Ireland's seafood development agency and they estimate that an additional €50 million in value added seafood sales can be created by 2012.  The opening of BIM's Seafood Development Centre in 2009 has encouraged significant uplift in new product development and innovation, with 178 seafood companies availing of its services in 2010.  For more information on the Seafood Value Adding Scheme visit www.bim.ie

More information on the Value Adding Scheme and the Special Assistance for Young Fishermen Scheme can be found on www.bim.ie

Date Released: 01 July 2011