The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM), Charlie McConalogue T.D., announced the establishment of a Seafood Sector Taskforce on 26 February 2021. The Taskforce was established to make recommendations to the Minister on measures to mitigate the impacts of the fish quota share reductions, arising from the EU/UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA), on the Irish Fishing industry and on the coastal communities that depend on fisheries.
Terms of Reference
The Task Force will examine the implications arising from the EU/UK TCA for the Irish Fishing industry and coastal communities particularly dependent upon it. It will, in particular, outline initiatives that could be taken to provide supports for development and restructuring so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing. The Task Force will consider how all available funding streams could be used to address, to the extent possible, the initiatives identified and the State agencies to support those initiatives. The Task Force will also consider and recommend constructive actions that would help to alleviate the inequitable relative contribution of quota share by Ireland in the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
The examination and initiatives identified will relate to:
• the Irish fishing fleet
• the Irish seafood processing industry
• other marine support industries
• coastal communities particularly dependent on the seafood industry.
Work Programme and Consultation
The Task Force were charged with producing an interim report within two months of its establishment. This will focus on arrangements for a temporary voluntary fleet tie up scheme, to counter the impact of the reduction in quotas which will begin to occur from April.
The Task Force will also be charged with producing a full report within four months.
The Taskforce is chaired by Aidan Cotter (barrister and former CEO of Bord Bia). Mr Cotter will be assisted by a steering group comprised of Margaret Daly (Deputy CEO of seafood processor Errigal Bay Ltd) and Mícheal Ó Cinnéide (former Director of the EPA and former Director in the Marine Institute and presently on the board of the Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board).
The task force committee is made up of participants from the following organisations:
• Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation
• Irish Fish Producers Organisation
• Irish South & West Fishermen’s Organisation
• Irish South & East Fishermen’s Organisation
• Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation PO
• National Inshore Fisheries Forum
• Fishermen’s Co-operatives (4 main Coops)
• Irish Fish Processors & Exporters Organisation
• Irish farmers Association (aquaculture branch)
• Fisheries Local Action Groups (1 representative of the 7 FLAGs)
• Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine
• Bord Iascaigh Mhara (secretariat)
• Enterprise Ireland
• Tourism Ireland
• Local Government Management Agency (two coastal local authority representatives)
• Údarás na Gaeltachta representative
The UK left the EU on Friday 31 January 2020 on the terms set out in the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. On 24 December, the EU and UK negotiating teams reached agreement in principle on a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), which came into effect from the end of the transition period.
The TCA between the EU and UK will see significant reductions in Ireland’s quotas for some key stocks, most notably mackerel and prawns, as part of the agreed transfer of quotas to the UK. These quota reductions will begin in 2021 and on a phased basis will result in a loss to Ireland of stocks worth €43 million per annum by 2026 or a 15% reduction overall in Irish fish quotas. To manage the transition to the new reality under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), a financial support package for the Irish fishing industry funded from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) is likely.
On 25 December 2020, the European Commission published a Proposal for an EU Regulation establishing the BAR. The objective of the proposed BAR is to provide support to counter the adverse consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union in Member States, regions and sectors, in particular those that are worst affected by that withdrawal, and to mitigate the related impact on the economic, social and territorial cohesion. The draft Regulation is subject to negotiations in the Council and European Parliament and its provisions may change. It is proposed that the BAR would have a budget to assist Ireland in funding appropriate measures in 2021 and 2022 to assist the worst affected sectors of our economy. Any support measures for the seafood sector proposed under Ireland’s BAR allocation need to be considered at a national level in the context of competing demands from other areas of our economy that have been impacted by Brexit. Any measures, proposed for implementation under the BAR, that are not covered by State Aid rules will require a separate application under State Aid guidelines.
In December 2020, political agreement was reached in the negotiation of the new European Maritime, Fisheries & Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) 2021-27 and it is anticipated that the EU Regulation will be enacted in April 2021. The EMFAF will provide EU co-funding to Member State operational programmes for the development of their seafood sectors. Ireland is to be allocated €142 million and the overall size of Ireland’s new Seafood Development Programme 2021-27 will then be determined by the extent of Government co-funding. The new programme will allow the Minister to implement various support schemes for the fisheries, aquaculture and seafood processing sectors and for coastal communities. The new Programme will replace Ireland’s present EMFF Programme 2014-20, which has nearly exhausted its funds.