The £2.6 million programme of investment is provided through the European Fisheries Fund and is aimed at supporting projects and initiatives that focus on the sustainable socio-economic development of County Down’s fishing communities.
The fund will support a broad range of projects that focus on community development; business development and diversification; tourism and leisure; and, technical development support. The funding programme will be administered by the South East Area (SEA) Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) which comprises of representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors within the three council regions of Ards, Down, and Newry and Mourne.
Speaking at the event, the Minister said: “This fund will provide meaningful benefits to the communities along the County Down coastline that continue to rely on the fishing industry for many of its job opportunities and wealth.
“The bottom-up approach used in developing the strategy to support the fund, which has drawn on the experiences gained from previous programmes of support, helps ensure that the available support focuses on addressing the needs of communities as they themselves have identified. I commend SEA-FLAG in delivering the required strategy and would encourage anyone with any project, or project idea, that is linked to community, business, tourism or leisure development to engage with the SEA-FLAG group to determine what financial and/or technical development assistance can be provided.”
The Minister added: “This funding represents one of the largest allocations awarded to any one Fisheries Local Action Group throughout Europe and should serves as a sign of confidence government holds in SEA-FLAG’s ability to deliver a meaningful programme of benefits.”
In responding to the Minister’s comments, the Chair of SEA-FLAG, Councillor William Burns said: “I am delighted that our local fisheries communities of Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie now have the opportunity to benefit from Axis 4 funding. In the current economic climate, we all need to be resourceful, flexible and be prepared to adapt to change.
“I feel this fund provides an exciting opportunity for us all to strengthen and diversify our economy and society and make a real difference to our local communities through developing and delivering innovative projects. We are looking forward to accepting a wide range of applications coming through following today’s launch and would encourage everyone who feels they may benefit from this much-needed support to contact our office to discuss what support can be provided.”