Speaking after a meeting of the Executive the Minister said: “Some weeks ago I announced a range of measures worth some £740,000 to help the fishing industry adapt to the new challenges that will flow from the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. Since then I have met with local representatives and participated in two Assembly debates. At that time, I said I would keep the situation under consideration, having continually observed the problems being faced by the local industry due to an unfortunate combination of high fuel costs, lower fish prices and environmental factors which have resulted in poor catches. I have been giving careful consideration to further options for a strategic support package and today I can announce three further elements of that package.”
Outlining these in further detail the Minister said: “Firstly, I want to address immediate needs and help the industry with the cash problems that are inhibiting some vessels from getting to sea. This will be based on a proportion of harbour dues paid and will be available to all active fishing vessels under 27m in length. My Department will be making payments during the summer and will be in contact with the Fish Producer Organisations in the coming days to tell them how the scheme will work. It is estimated that this scheme will be worth in the region of £500,000.
“Secondly, I want to address the access to finance issue which is often quoted by fishing industry representatives as one of the reasons why fishing businesses have not taken up grant opportunities. My Department will examine the need for intervention in the form of a loan fund. Potentially all sectors of the industry – catching, aquaculture, processing and shore based support could potentially benefit from better access to finance and it could play an important role in helping the fishing industry diversify to exploit service opportunities for the offshore renewable energy industry.
“Finally, I will be bringing forward a further plan in the autumn to address the recommendations involving the fishing industry that are contained in the Agri-Food Strategy Board’s report “Going for Growth”. I want to insure that our fishing industry maximises its potential so that it will continue to play an important role in the economic life of the coastal communities in which it is based.”
The Minister concluded: “These further measures complete the strategic approach I am taking to strengthening the fishing industry. They build on the medium term initiatives that I have already announced and they compliment the range of finance opportunities already on offer from the European Fisheries Fund.”