Rising fuel prices are crippling the Irish Seafood sector, including fishermen, aquaculture producers and fish processors. That’s according to Galway-based Enda Conneely of the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO ), who says the crisis is a threat to food security.
“The entire Irish Seafood Sector is calling on the Government to act now to claim available EU funds to compensate the seafood sector and get the situation under control,” he told the Advertiser.
Mr Conneely says eight Industry sector representative groups from fishing, fish processing, aquaculture and coastal community bodies have come together to call for urgent Government action.
In addition to the (IIMRO ), these include the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO ), the South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO ) the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA ), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture division, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO ), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO ) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs ).
Mr Conneely says the European Commission adopted a ‘Temporary Crisis Framework’ for the seafood sector on March 23. “This was to enable Member States to use the flexibility of State aid rules, to compensate for high energy prices.
“In addition to this, just two days later, the commission activated a crisis mechanism to grant financial compensation for lost income and additional costs, because of seafood market disruption.
“It was activated under the umbrella of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF. The EMFAF crisis mechanism is a temporary measure and applies retrospectively as of 24th February 2022 and will be in place until the end of 2022.
The Irish Government has abjectly failed to act, despite jobs already being in jeopardy says Enda Conneely of IIMRO. ‘’This is despite a desperate plea from all sectors of the Irish seafood industry, and a clear time limit for access to approved EU funds’’.
Marine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery, of the Fisheries Local Action Groups, says the seafood sector has a crucial role in the Irish economy. “The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM ) Business of Seafood report for 2021 clearly shows the vital importance of the seafood industry to the economy of our fishing communities sustaining over 16,000 jobs. These jobs are mainly located in peripheral areas. So, any job losses will hit hardest at the heart of our coastal and maritime communities.”
Aodh O’Donnell of the IFPO says “the Irish Government is failing to activate the funding made available by the EU for the seafood industry. “Meanwhile French, Spanish and many of our fellow EU compatriots who fish our seas are receiving targeted benefits to aid their seafood sectors and enabling them to continue operations”
“We need to prevent a wipe out of the seafood industry which threatens our ability to make a significant contribution to EU food security. In order to do this, we must be on a level playing field with our EU counterparts.”
Norah Parke, on behalf of Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, says they support the Irish fishing industry’s stance. “We appeal for immediate action by the government before many vessel owners, processors and suppliers reach a point of no return. This is due to the unsustainable spiral of costs facing the fishing industry and further supply chain. It is incomprehensible that there is a solution available which is not being used”.
Patrick Murphy (IS&WFPO ) summed up the situation saying “we have a united Irish seafood industry of Fishing, Fish Processing, and Aquaculture Sectors. Together we demand that the Irish Government act now. The Minister for the Marine must at least activate the provision granted by the EU Commission to release essential funds immediately,” he said.