The package is targeted at the inshore fishing sector and consists of three parts including:
(1) The establishment of a National Inshore Fisheries Forum, supported by a network of Regional Inshore Forums in each of the FLAG regions,
(2) A funding programme worth up to €1m for the inshore sector, and
(3) Conservation measures to support lobster and shrimp stocks.
The inshore sector (fishing boats of less than 12m overall length) comprise over 80 per cent of the fishing fleet and are predominately active within six nautical miles of the shore.
Announcing the establishment of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF) the Minister said: “Ireland’s inshore fishermen are poorly represented by current structures and need a dedicated platform where they can discuss and develop common initiatives. I hope that inshore fishermen will embrace this opportunity created by the new structures to have a coherent voice which can be heard clearly.”
The NIFF is being set up to encourage inshore fishermen using small fishing boats to participate in the management of fisheries within six nautical miles. A network of Regional Inshore Forums (RIF’s), based on and linked to the community-led Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) around the Irish coast, will nominate delegates to bring forward regional proposals to the NIFF for wider industry discussion. The structures will also provide a new opportunity for future consultation with the inshore fishing sector.
The Minister committed to a total funding programme for inshore fishermen in 2014 worth up to €1 million. This is aimed at providing financial assistance for sustainable, environmentally friendly fishing practices and the recent safety equipment and training initiative. Support will be available under the new Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Scheme for a range of measures including:
- An enhanced v-notching programme with increased coverage around the coast (grant aid increased from current maximum 55 to 75 per cent)
- gear and equipment to support responsible fishing practices (such as mackerel jigging, potting for crayfish)
- improvements in the area of quality, hygiene, and standards on board
A supplementary Shellfish Pot Replacement Scheme will also be launched to provide extended assistance to fishermen who lost pots during the exceptional winter storms, more than doubling the pot limits from 50 to 200 for boats less than 12m length and from 100 to 250 for boats from 12 to 15m in length. Existing applicants to the current scheme will automatically be increased to the supplementary pot limits and a call for new applications will be advertised.
Following on extensive consultation in 2013, the Minister also approved plans to revise conservation measures for lobster and shrimp. Given the importance of very large lobsters to the reproductive potential of the stock, a maximum landing size for lobster of 127mm will be introduced by legislation in the coming months. During the first two years of operation of this new measure, fishermen will be paid up to 75 per cent of the market price for v-notching ‘oversize’ lobsters and returning them live to sea. In addition the grant aid for voluntary V notching of Lobsters is being increased from the existing maximum of 55 per cent to a new maximum of 75 per cent.
A revised closing date for the shrimp fishery of 15 March instead of 1 May will commence from 2015 to provide stock protection during the spawning period.
Minister Coveney said: “I am asking the Regional Inshore Forums, as a first initiative, to identify lobster stock enhancement areas within their regions where hatchery-grown juveniles could be released. Lobsters are one of the most important species to the inshore sector and we need to dedicate resources to ensure the long-term future of this valuable stock. I have also asked BIM to work with the Marine Institute to develop a pilot project for a national lobster hatchery as an additional conservation tool.”