Producer organisations accuse Minister of ‘failing to recognise the gravity of unprecedented crisis’
In rejecting impassioned appeals for specific COVID supports from a beleaguered fishing industry which is fighting for its very survival in the face of the pandemic, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and his officials have effectively turned their back on the sector. That’s the view of the four fish producer organisations which form the backbone of a €1.22 billion industry which supports more than 16,150 jobs in this country and is endeavouring to continue providing seafood to a market which has crashed on a multitude of levels.
“Earlier this month, the Minister did announce a Covid-19 Voluntary Fleet Tie-up Scheme which is completely unfit for purpose. Instead of achieving the key objective of matching current supply and demand, the scheme will do the reverse with very little voluntary uptake as almost all vessels will continue to fish thus making an already over supplied market worse. Crucially, not one single cent of new financial support is being made available to the industry. We have met with the Minister and his officials and set out clearly what we need to survive this pandemic. Moreover, we have already successfully lobbied at EU level to have amendments to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund provided for under EU Regulation 2020/560 to mitigate the impact of the COVID?19 outbreak,” said Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation Chief Executive, Seán O’Donoghue.
“Like many others, fishermen are struggling desperately, in the new ‘normal’ that we find ourselves in. Demand has fallen to such an extent that some fishermen are actually receiving no bids for the fish that they have risked life and limb, to catch. The closure of sales venues, such as restaurants, markets and other outlets, has seen prices for all fish plummet. Over the last few weeks, the price drop across many popular species has been in the region of 50% to 70%,” he continued.
“This has created a serious and unprecedented crisis for Irish fishermen. As an industry, we have never faced anything like it. The capitulation in demand and prices combined with the vulnerability and complexity of the supply chain has made the operations of fishing fleets and seafood production, a loss-making enterprise.”
Mr O’Donoghue said that the industry is, nonetheless, doing everything in its power to ensure consumers continue to have access to essential nutrition in the form of high-quality sustainable seafood. It has stepped up to the plate also to protect fishermen through increased health and safety restrictions and extensive surveillance and monitoring of crew.
“The entire industry is united in our unequivocal rejection of a botched and ultimately useless ‘scheme’ which does nothing to provide reassurance to fishermen. We’ve been endeavouring to try to manage a safe passage through Brexit and its consequences, now we’re hit with this. I’ve never witnessed anger like it in the sector and I’d implore the Minister to review the scheme, deliver the very basic support that we need to survive. We are more than willing to meet him halfway and continue to operate, thereby providing a sustainable and very important food supply,” concluded Mr O’Donoghue.
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