MEPs agree rules for €6.5bn of fishing aid

New grant system covers engine replacements and help for young entrants

Draft rules for allocating more than €6.5 billion to help fishermen comply with the new common fisheries policy have been approved by the European Parliament.  Photograph by Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Draft rules for allocating more than €6.5 billion to help fishermen comply with the new common fisheries policy have been approved by the European Parliament. Photograph by Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 19:37

Draft rules for allocating more than €6.5 billion to help fishermen comply with the new common fisheries policy have been approved by the European Parliament.

This money, which would be spent between 2014 and 2020, represents a significant shift of additional funds into data collection, control and enforcement. It also includes subsidies for engine replacement and other measures such as the acquisition of specialised fishing gear, improvements to safety and working conditions and port infrastructure.

A key aspect of the draft rules is the provision of aid for new, selective fishing gear which will assist in the ban on discarding unwanted fish. Grant aid will be available for more selective fishing gear or equipment to facilitate handling, landing and storage of unwanted catches.

Aid for engine replacement was linked to withdrawing, replacing or modernising engines, provided that the new engine’s power output is at least 40 per cent less than that of the engine it replaces. An amendment to reintroduce fleet renewal subsidies was rejected.

MEPs also said fishermen under 35 years old could be granted up to €100,000 in individual start-up support if they buy a small-scale and coastal fishing vessel of between five and 20 years old and have five years’ professional experience in the sector.

The draft rules were immediately welcomed by Ireland North West MEP Jim Higgins who said the aid was “the first and foremost concrete measures to eliminate overfishing”. He said the scheme promoted “good management of fleet capacity, while enabling fishermen to make a living from fishing”.

Mr Higgins, a member of the parliament’s fisheries committee, also welcomed the new engine funding and funding for young entrants to the industry.

However, Markus Knigge, policy adviser to environmental groups the OCEAN2012 coalition and the Pew Charitable Trusts, was less satisfied.

He said measures such as subsidies for engine replacement and paying fishermen to temporarily stop fishing rather than actually reducing overcapacity would be a hindrance rather than a help.

“Fisheries subsidies that aim to make individual businesses more profitable have not been shown to benefit the public more widely; rather, they often result in the overexploitation of fish stocks,” he said.