Written Answers. - Irish Fleet.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

52 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Marine the progress, if any, which has been made to date in implementing the commitment given in the Fianna Fáil-Labour Programme for a Partnership Government 1993-97 to modernise and increase our fishing fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

We are only six months into the Programme for a Partnership Government, so it is a little difficult to assess the extent to which we have begun to move towards our targets. However, there are clear indicators that, even in this short period, we have indeed started to move in this direction.

First, the campaign to modernise the Irish fleet received a major boost in April, when the Commission published its decisions on grant-aid for the fleet. Community funding of £1.3 million was secured for 23 modernisation projects, underpinning a total investment of around £4 million making this the most successful Irish grant-aid tranche for a number of years. The next round of grants will be made in October next and I will be pushing strongly at that point for further funding for modernisations.

I would also point out at this point that the mechanism whereby Community funding will be provided for the development of the fleet is currently being modified with the incorporation of funding for fisheries development into the general Structural Funds framework. This will mean greater efficiency in fisheries funding and will enable national authorities better to plan for periods of several years and to tailor individual schemes to real needs.

Secondly, as regards the expansion of the fleet, I am happy to inform the Deputy that here also we are moving towards our targets, particularly in the offshore whitefish sector. The special whitefish licensing scheme, introduced at end-1991, has led to the introduction of 17 specialised all-weather whitefish vessels with an additional three vessels expected to enter the fleet before the end of 1993.
It is envisaged that in the context of the National Development Plan, a specific comprehensive programme for the fleet will be put in place for the period 1994 to 1999.