The new Programme will be co-funded by the EU through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and is subject to adoption by the European Commission.
A public consultation on the Minister’s proposals for the new Programme and a strategic environmental assessment has been published, with comments invited by 1 May 2015.
In announcing the new Programme the Minister said: “I am delighted to announce today a comprehensive €241 million investment package for the seafood sector. Our Seafood sector is worth in the region of €850 million annually to our economy, with exports growing by 70 per cent since 2009 to €540 million. Seafood is widely recognised as a high growth area of our economy, with the potential to grow to €1 billion by 2020. The investment package I am announcing today will be a key element in achievement of that growth potential. It will provide the capital to assist seafood enterprises to sustainably grow their production, add value to our seafood exports and create much needed employment in our coastal communities.”
The Minister went on to say: “I negotiated a doubling for the period to 2020 of the EU seafood development funds to Ireland. Under this Programme, €147m will be provided to Ireland under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. Government is providing an additional €94 million in co-funding, demonstrating our commitment to growing and developing the sector”.
The Minister added: “I recognise at the outset that there will be many views on how these funds would best be invested and on which particular areas should be prioritised. Following a detailed process of analysing the investment needs of the sector, I am proposing today that we invest €42 million in implementing the new Common Fisheries Policy, including measures for developing more selective fishing gear, and supporting the new discards ban.
"I am also proposing that we invest a further €6 million to build on the good work that has been ongoing over recent months to revive and sustainably grow our inshore fisheries, €30 million to sustainably develop our aquaculture industry and implement a new national plan for aquaculture that I will be announcing shortly, €12 million to grow the seafood based economies of our coastal communities through community led Fisheries Local Action Groups, and €41 million to grow markets for our seafood products, develop our seafood processing industry and develop new value added products for those markets.
"I am also making available almost €10 million to support implementation of EU environmental law, to help protect vulnerable habitats and species and ensure that our seafood sector continues to operate and grow in a sustainable manner.”
The Minister concluded by saying: “I am inviting comments on these proposals by 1 May and I look forward to considering all views and discussing them with stakeholders.”