ANN CAHILL: Government to ask EU for more fishing sector funding

THE Government will tell the EU it wants more money for the Irish fishing industry when EU Fisheries Ministers meet today.

Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg has already offered to contribute up to 60% of funding for measures to alleviate the hardship fishermen are suffering because of high fuel prices.

However, Fisheries Minister Brendan Smith and Minister of State Tony Killeen will tell the Commissioner that the European Fisheries Fund should contribute more, if not the full amount, rather than ask national government to pay a share.

A spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries said: “We should have an EU-wide proposal with funding from the common budget rather than just allowing member states to spend additional money.”

Ireland is already due to receive €42 million over the next two years to restructure the white fish fleet which will include decommissioning vessels.

Under the latest proposals announced by the commissioner last week, however, joint EU-government grants can be made available for helping people from every area of the fishing industry — from fishermen to market porters — to retire or retrain for other jobs.

He also proposed paying fishermen and paying for the fixed costs of their vessels if they tie up for up to three months.

There could also be additional funding for vessel owners to make their craft and engines more energy efficient and for ways to add value to their fish catch on the market.

Mr Borg will put these measures and a host of others to the ministers at their meeting in Luxembourg today. He has stressed they must be part of the overall aim of restructuring the industry that has too many fishermen chasing too few fish.

Ireland has been joined by France, Spain and Portugal in saying they do not go far enough.

The French Fisheries Minister, Michel Barnier, said: “I think we need to go further as far as how the European fisheries fund is used”.

Some countries favour a reduction in fuel tax but not every country is expected to support this demand. Mr Borg is expected to reconsider his proposals after today’s meeting and return with a revised package on July 15.


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