A new €241m development programme for the seafood sector for the period up to 2020 will be rolled out from the beginning of this year.
It will follow the pre-Christmas fish quota negotiations at the Council of Fisheries Ministers in Brussels.
Agriculture, Food, and Marine Minister Simon Coveney said the outcome was very positive for the industry in light of the reductions that had been proposed by the European Commission in advance of the negotiations.
The quota value terms for white fish have been increased for the third year in a row and the landed value next year should be around €131m.
On the whole, the industry would have an additional 10% of white fish to catch this year, which will be worth €10m. However, there will be a reduction in quota for cod in the Irish Sea and off the west coast. The boarfish quota has also been reduced, as has the quota for sole in the Irish Sea. However, there is an additional quota for certain species that will be subject to a ban on discarding at sea for the first time from today.
Fishing industry leaders broadly welcome the outcome, but groups campaiging for the conservation of fish stocks in the Irish Sea expressed concern.
The seafood sector is worth in the region of €850m annually to the economy, comprised of an export market worth €520m and a home market of €330m. It employs 11,000 people, including 4,984 fishermen, 1,716 fish farmers, 2,860 in processing, and another 1,140 in ancillary activities. Mr Coveney said he is aiming to achieve €1bn sales by the seafood industry by 2020.
The four main activities in the industry are covered by fishing, fish farming, processing, and marketing, and they employ 11,000 people. Killybegs, Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, and Kilmore Quay are the top fishing ports, but vessels also land catches at numerous smaller ports around the coast.
More than 2,130 vessels operate in the industry which has 250 aquaculture operations and 180 seafood processing companies, which produce a wide range of high- value products. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the global demand for seafood is projected to grow by 42m tonnes per annum over the next decade.
Some €67m of the investment announced by Mr Coveney will be focused on implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy. It will focus, in particular, on the discards ban.
Another €30m is earmarked for the sustainable development of aquaculture. Measures will focus on growing production, value, and employment in the sector and promoting knowledge, innovation, and technology. There is €33m for processing and marketing, with measures focused on innovation, competitiveness, and employment through increased value added processing of fish.
A total of €12m will be allocated to a maximum of seven Fisheries Local Action Groups to develop and implement local development strategies for coastal areas to create growth and jobs.
These strategies will focus, in particular, on adding value to seafood products and diversifying the local economy towards new economic activities offered by the broader maritime sector.
Supports totalling €45m will be geared towards implementing the Common Fisheries Policy through investment by the State in database, traceability and vessel monitoring systems, as well as training and investment in new fisheries patrol vessels.
There will be €41m in supports for the provision of scientific and economic data on the seafood industry to support decision making at EU and national level.
A further €10.6m will be available under the Integrated Maritime Policy for developing a marine spatial planning system and other measures.
The IFA warned that it will not be possible to meet the aquaculture targets unless a backlog of 600 licence applications is tackled and State regulation radically reformed.
Richie Flynn, IFA aquaculture executive, called for a commitment by Mr Coveney to improve the situation by providing a centralised one-stop-shop to co-ordinate licence applications. Mr Flynn said Mr Coveney must commit to spending every cent of the €30m earmarked for aquaculture development within the first two years of the programme.
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