Minister Deenihan Officially Launches South-West Fisheries Local Action Group Strategy for Cork and Kerry

Group photo at the launch of the South West FLAGs

Group photo at the launch of the South West FLAGs

Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr. Jimmy Deenihan, T.D and the South-West Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) officially launched the ‘Strategy for Small and Fishing Dependent Communities’ in Benner’s Hotel, Dingle, Co. Kerry today (17th February).

Forming part of a nationwide initiative coordinated by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Seafood Development Agency, the South-West FLAG is one of six FLAG’s around the coast. The FLAG programme is funded under Axis 4 of the European Fisheries Fund and aims to empower local communities to develop opportunities and grow existing infrastructure within their own coastal areas.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Deenihan praised the involvement of the FLAG members at the launch event; ‘I am delighted to be here today to launch this very worthwhile venture in a region that is renowned for its maritime and fisheries heritage. The members of the South-West FLAG are to be congratulated for compiling such a detailed and comprehensive strategy and I would also like to thank BIM for their hard work in coordinating the programme and assisting the formation of the group. I am also delighted to announce a total investment figure of €1.5 million under the 2014 National FLAG programme, with €600,000 of that investment co-funded by Government and the European Fisheries Fund. We cannot underestimate the significance of our Fisheries and Marine Tourism sectors to our coastal communities in terms of employment and revenue so this investment and initiative is of vital importance. The fact that this strategy is led and driven by the local community is new and exciting; I am looking forward to the improvements this strategy will bring to the South-West region’.

The South-West FLAG region includes the area west of Foynes, Co. Limerick to the river at Youghal, Co. Cork (effectively the coastal communities in Cork and Kerry). The FLAG consisting of 13 members has a wealth of expertise from both state and local community sectors. The strategy was compiled following in depth research and an extensive stakeholder engagement process. The FLAG committee have already approved three projects in the areas of Sustainable Seafood-Fostering, the Artisan Sector, Skills Development and a Stronger Coastal Economy-Specialist Skills, and Marine Tourism –Maritime Heritage. The programme is currently open and accepting applications. Apply for the FLAGS programme

The importance of the Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Tourism sectors to Cork and Kerry is considerable with 32% of the national fleet operating from the region and direct employment of 1,152 full time fishermen. Of the 571 vessels (under18 meters), 90% are inshore vessels and 56 are licenced to the aquaculture business. The region has a rich diversity of successful fisheries and aquaculture enterprises including the Native Oyster Fishery, Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry; trawl and net fisheries for whitefish and nephrops; mussels in Kenmare, Cromane, Bantry and Roaring Water Bay and important pot fisheries for lobster, crab and shrimp.

Michael Keatinge, BIM Fisheries and Training Development Director summed up proceedings by explaining how the initiative differs from existing grant-aid programmes; ‘BIM administer a variety of grant-aid schemes to the fisheries sector but the Axis 4 programme represents a new departure for structural aid in this sector. It essentially empowers local people to become the drivers of local development. BIM coordinate the FLAG programme but the FLAG groups take ownership of their own strategy to enable fisheries communities to create new and sustainable sources of income. We are delighted with the uptake on this initiative to date and we are looking forward to the launch of three further strategies for the North, North-West and East FLAG’s in the coming months’

BIM also announced an assistance package for inshore fishermen at the event. BIM is administering the ‘Shellfish Pot Replacement Scheme – Storm Damage Relief Measure 2014’ on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The scheme is designed to financially assist inshore fishermen to replace shellfish pots, lost or irrevocably damaged during the severe storms of December 2013 – February 2014. Aimed at owners of vessels less than 15 metres with lobster, crab and shrimp pots, a fixed payment of €24 for each receipted environmentally friendly replacement lobster pot and €12 for each receipted shrimp pot up to the maximum number of 50 pots (vessels less than 12 metres) and 100 pots (vessels equal to or greater than 12 metres) is available. Closing date for applications is Friday 28th March 2014. Terms and conditions apply. Learn about the pot replacement scheme

Pictured above are the members of the South-West Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) pictured with Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr. Jimmy Deenihan, T.D. at the launch of a strategy to develop fisheries and maritime opportunities in the South-West region are: back row: Joseph O’Shea, Inshore Fishing, South Kerry; Seamus O’Grady, Inshore Fishing, North Kerry; Finian O’Sullivan, Aquaculture West Cork; John Walsh, Community Islands Cork; Huan Tan, BIM; Vera O’Donovan, BIM and Frank Fleming, Responsible Irish Fish
Front row: Artie Clifford, Artisan Food Community, West Kerry; Kevin Flannery, Environment Community West Kerry; Tomas Hayes, Kerry Enterprise Board and Maire Ní Hé, Udaras na Gaeltachta‌