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Poots announces £336,000 support scheme for Lough Neagh fishermen


Image: loughneagheels.com

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced a funding package of £336,000 to support fishing vessels operating in the Lough Neagh eel and scale fishery, in recognition of reduced market demand due to Covid-19 in 2020.


It brings the total support the Minister has directed towards Northern Ireland’s fisheries sector throughout the pandemic to £3.4million after he allocated £2.64million to the sea fishing sector and a further £425,000 was given to support the aquaculture sector.


Eligible vessels will be able to apply for a proportion of income lost during May and June 2020 (when the fishery was closed) and support for a voluntary tie up period between July and October of that year to reduce fish landings in recognition of limited market demand arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.


Announcing the Scheme, Minister Poots said:


The fishing sector on Lough Neagh has been particularly hard hit by the severe market disruption in Europe by the Covid-19 Pandemic. The closure of many markets and disruption of established distribution channels, particularly to restaurants and the food service industry internationally, has seen market demand and sale prices drop substantially. It is vital to give the Lough Neagh fishery a means of matching supply with demand and to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of an industry which is very important to the local economy.”


Minister Poots explained:


“The new Covid-19 Lough Neagh Financial Support Scheme I am announcing today will support the owners of fishing vessels who have experienced loss of income in the 2020 season. The Scheme is designed to complement the other Covid-19 support mechanisms already being provided by Government to the fishing sector and indeed other sectors of our economy. The voluntary scheme will cover the period from May up to the end of October 2020 which is the traditional end of the brown eel fishing season. My Department will contact Lough Neagh fishermen who have held a DAERA commercial fishing licence in any of the years 2017 to 2019, to invite them to apply to the Scheme.”


The Scheme will be delivered under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund 2014-20, co-funded by DAERA and the European Union.


The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014-20 was launched in January 2016. The Programme provides around €20m in funding to the fishing sector (fisheries, aquaculture and seafood processing) over the period 2014 to 2020. The Programme is co-funded by the NI Executive and the European Union.


Payments to fishing vessel owners for temporary cessation. Article 33.1(d) of the EMFF Regulation (508/2014) provides for payments to fishing vessel owners for temporary cessation of fishing activities as a consequence of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This new provision was enacted by the EU on 23 April 2020 through Regulation 2020/560, as part of the EU’s Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative.


The Covid-19 Lough Neagh Tie-up Scheme is designed to address the loss of income incurred by vessel owners while the fishery was closed in May and June of 2020 and to provide financial support for those owners who did not fish for the remainder of that season due to reduced market demand and the impact full fishing would have on the sustainability of Lough Neagh eels.


To qualify for the Scheme, the applicant’s vessel must demonstrate at least £5,000 of landings in any year between the period 2017 to 2019 calendar years; and that they have fished for at least 120 days in the two calendar years prior to May 2020. In addition, applicants must have held a DAERA licence to fish Lough Neagh.

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