'Boat owners, most of whom have only reluctantly applied for the scheme because they cannot survive in the industry...'
Number of fishing boats to be scrapped doubles since February
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Friday, March 24, 2023, 07:00 (GMT + 9)
The number of fishing boat owners applying for decommissioning has more than doubled since last month.
According to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM)
, which is administering the Department of Agriculture’s €75m Voluntary Decommissioning Scheme, 42 fishing boats are to be scrapped — up from a figure of 20 issued in February.
This is out of a total of 57 letters of offer that have been issued to the 64 owners who had initially applied last year from the 180-strong fleet eligible for decommissioning.
It is believed the largest number of boats from a single port to be scrapped are from Castletownbere, from where some 19 boat owners had originally applied to the scheme. The West Cork town heavily reliant on the fishing industry.
Vessel owners that avail of the scheme have to decommission their boat, and have it destroyed, by October 31.
BIM has said that four vessels have so far been decommissioned by specialist recyclers based in New Ross and Limerick, and the scheduling of the rest of the vessels for decommissioning is under way.
BIM chief executive Caroline Bocquel said: “We understand that any decision to voluntarily decommission vessels is a very difficult one for vessel owners.
“BIM has been working closely with the industry in recent months to assist vessel owners through the process."
As a result of the numbers accepting offers, BIM says this will free up an estimated €30m of quota — the amount of fish the EU said those boat owners would land — to be shared out among the remaining offshore fleet.
The scheme, as well as a number of tie-up initiatives over the past two years, are designed to help mitigate against the quota and financial losses Irish fishers sustained because of Brexit.
Both schemes are funded by the EU’s Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund, of which Ireland has been allocated €1.2bn.
To date, it is estimated that around €60m has been spent by the fishing industry since Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue's seafood taskforce recommended in 2021 that the industry get €423m in BAR-related funding.
Criticism of scheme
As of January this year, the total allocated to sectors in the fishing industry schemes was around €267m, far short of the original recommended figure.
This BAR fund was set up to help member states most affected by the Brexit deal with the resulting adverse economic, social, territorial, and environmental consequences.
Boat owners, most of whom have only reluctantly applied for the scheme because they cannot survive in the industry, will only get a proportion of the total value of their boats back.
Any fishing boat owners accepted for decommissioning will not only have to pay off any outstanding loans on their scrapped boats, but will also have to pay back EU funds they received during the pandemic.
Industry representatives have previously said the decommissioning scheme would have been more successful if it was better funded.