Irish minister for agriculture, food and the marine Charlie McConalogue has announced a record budget provision for the seafood sector and coastal communities for 2023 of €335m – a 62% increase in funding from 2022.
This covers fisheries, aquaculture, seafood processing, fishery harbour development, marine research and conservation.
What was notably not announced, however, was any provision for a subsidy for vessels hit by rocketing fuel prices – despite the budget including specific energy costs support for seafood processors.
Minister McConalogue said: “Today’s €335m budget announcement for the seafood sector and coastal communities represents the largest ever annual budget provision for the sector.
“Over the past year I have announced a range of schemes worth €225m, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, designed to support the seafood sector and coastal communities in overcoming the impact of Brexit. These schemes will run for the remainder of this year and for 2023, and the budget provision that the government is making today will enable these schemes to be fully delivered.
“Having listened to fishing representatives, and at their request, I established a second tie-up scheme worth €12m for this year to help alleviate the marine fuel pressures facing fishers. This budget will include supports for energy costs for seafood processors.”
Dampening hopes of the government relenting on a fuel subsidy for vessel owners, he added: “In discussion with industry over recent weeks, I am aware of the energy and fuel pressures facing fishers, aquaculture operators and processors.
“I am confident that measures such as the extra tie-up scheme, which was requested by the industry to alleviate Brexit impacts compounded by fuel pressures, will help fishers, and the energy supports schemes announced by government today will support processors.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on fisheries and the marine Pádraig Mac Lochlainn condemned the government’s failure to announce an emergency aid package to address the impact of the fuel crisis on Irish vessels.
He said: “In recent days, the Irish fishing industry united again to meet the minister for the marine Charlie McConalogue to appeal for urgent financial support for their fishing communities in crisis.
“It was 11 weeks when they last met him in July with the same appeal. I am shocked that the government have not announced a rescue package in the budget.
“Worse, it appears that EU Brexit funding is now replacing what would normally be investment from the central Irish exchequer in coastal communities.
“It is absolutely incredible that we have emergency fuel support schemes for their fishing industries, being introduced across EU member states with the support of the European Commission, and here in Ireland the minister has sat on his hands despite desperate calls for relief.
“The time for action is now. The EU has relaxed state aid rules to allow temporary measures to be taken by the minister. There is no excuse not to act.”
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.