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Fisheries Plan Announced To Boost Industry

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew has published a plan to implement the recommendations contained in the Fisheries Forum Report.

The Forum which represents a wide spectrum of experience and expertise from the fishing industry and the marine environment was set up to advise the Minister on a long term strategy to develop a sustainable and profitable future for the sector. The Forum Report sets out its vision to have 'A sustainable, profitable and self-reliant seafood and aquaculture industry which maximises its contribution to the coastal communities and the rural economy and which is based on fish stocks managed at sustainable levels and which operates in an environmentally responsible manner'.

Discussing the report, the Minister said: “I would like to thank the Fisheries Forum for the effort it put in to produce this important Report. The Forum has presented a very practical, realisable vision for the industry. I am fully committed to helping the industry to achieve that vision. In so doing I want to make sure that the financial resources available through the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) are used effectively to deliver the changes that are needed.

“But this Report is not just about what government should do. Change can only happen through greater partnership between government and industry and between the sectors within the industry. That has been reflected in the implementation plan that I have published today which contains actions for all stakeholders.”

A key issue considered by the Forum was the size of the fleet and the fishing opportunities that are available to it. The Minister said: “There is some evidence to suggest that the current balance is not right and the Report has recommended that my Department develops a decommissioning scheme to reduce the size of the fleet. I agree in principle that decommissioning should be examined further. This is an emotive issue and I am fully aware that many within the industry have concerns that such a scheme could have unintended consequences.

“For that reason I have asked my Department to prepare a business case to critically examine the need for decommissioning, its value for money, the design of possible schemes and the impacts such schemes would have on all sectors of the industry. Work will begin on that immediately.”

On the Report’s recommendation about further hardship payments to the catching sector, the Minister said: “I have no doubt that this would be welcomed by the industry but public spending on this could not be justified in the current economic climate. But, my Department will open shortly the Vessel Modernisation measure for the EFF which will provide some £2.5million of grant support as soon as it receives the go ahead to do so from the Department of Finance and Personnel. This will enable the Department to make grants of up to 60 per cent to improve fishing vessels that are less than 12 metres in length and use static gear. It also offers up to 40 per cent for larger vessels that use trawls and other mobile gear.”

In conclusion, the Minister added: "The Forum provided a unique and valuable opportunity for the wide range of interests within the fishing industry to come together to tackle the challenges the industry faces. I want to see its work continue and for it to be involved with the implementation of the Report’s recommendations."

the Fish Site Editor

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