The plight of the country’s small fishermen was laid bare at the Dáil Committee on the Marine as the department gave details about €8.8m in additional funding it has allocated for the repair of storm-ravaged harbours, piers and slipways and €1.5m in compensation for lost and damaged lobster and crab pots.
This €8.8m is in addition to the €70m announced by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan earlier this week for flood and storm-damaged repairs to local authority infrastructure.
The money will be available to about 100 piers in nine counties on the West coast and the local authorities will have to fund 10% of all works completed. The fund is aimed at smaller piers and department officials have said that where possible, they have no issue with works being completed by direct labour.
A once-off €1.5m compensation scheme for lost and damaged lobster and crab pots is also to be put in place.
Enormous damage was suffered by smaller fishermen who followed advice to take in pots and store them at harbour. However, the ferocity of waves meant many of these pots, which can’t be insured, were damaged.
The scheme is limited to owners of vessels under 15m and will offer €24 per lost lobster pot lost and €12 per lost shrimp pot or 40% of the cost of replacement. The scheme is capped however at 50 replacement pots for vessels under 12m and 100 for vessels under 15m.
Fianna Fáil deputy Éamon Ó Cuív criticised the lobster pot scheme as “too restrictive, with too many conditions”. However, Fine Gael deputy Noel Harrington argued it was welcome as it “was not expected by the fishermen and would help many get back on their feet”.
Referring to the pier and harbour repair scheme, Donegal South West TD, Thomas Pringle said local authorities wouldn’t be able to find their 10% of the repair funding as they “can barely meet demands as it is”. Mr Pringle also questioned how much of the work the €8.8m will cover as there aren’t overall figures yet for damage.
But Fine Gael deputy Noel Harrington again said the money was welcome and that between all the local authorities, they wouldn’t have a problem finding the 10% as previously, they had been expected to contribute 25% of the scheme.
Department of Agriculture and the Marine assistant secretary Cecil Beamish told the committee that some of the piers and harbours destroyed were up to 150 years old and that once local authorities submitted their estimates, a priority list will be drawn up.
Earlier this week, the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation called on the minister to make funds available to vessel owners and their crew as the extreme weather conditions has cost the industry up to €30m so far this year.
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