My overarching goal for the Irish Fishing Industry and for white fish dedicated fishermen is to ensure that we build a sustainable, profitable and self reliant fishing industry which protects and enhances the social and economic fabric of rural coastal communities dependent on the seafood sector. I believe that this can be achieved only in the context of a significantly reformed EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which places long term sustainability at its core. These objectives need to be balanced with the need to deliver a sustainable and ecologically sound fisheries landscape not just for the coming year but for future generations. This is at the heart of my efforts in the Irish Presidency to progress the process of CFP reform between now and the end of June. We have already made significant progress along this road with the agreement at the February Fisheries Council of a process to finally end the practice of discarding fish at sea over a phased basis. This policy and the other elements of the Basic Common Fisheries Policy Regulation will be negotiated with the EU Parliament and the EU Commission over the coming months with a view to securing overall agreement during the Irish Presidency.
In the current economic climate, it is necessary to have a policy that supports innovation, quality and added value in the sector. In that regards, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) operates a scheme that provides a framework of support for the Irish Seafood Industry intent on achieving internationally accredited, third party audited, standards for wild capture fisheries. Accordingly, appropriate standards provide an opportunity for the Irish fishing industry to not just reassure but also demonstrate their commitment to responsible fishing practices and to thereby retain and build market share. I am also pleased to report that BIM will shortly launch a new Fleet Modernisation Scheme co-funded by my Department and the European Fisheries Fund. This new scheme will provide grant aid to fishing vessels for investment in on-board equipment to improve working conditions, hygiene, product quality and energy efficiency. Grants of up to 40% will be available up to a maximum of €15,000 for vessels over 24 metres. Under the terms of the scheme, grant aided equipment must not increase the ability of the vessel to catch fish, however it may improve the value of catch through improvement of product quality.