I propose to take Questions Nos. 542 and 551 together.
My Department's €240 million European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme is the vehicle for financial supports to the seafood sector up to 2021. The Programme delivers a wide range of supports for aquaculture, fisheries and seafood processing through a suite of 15 schemes, including the Sustainable Fisheries Scheme.
Funding of €250,000 has been provided to Bord Iascaigh Mhara in 2016 and 2017 under the EMFF Sustainable Fisheries Scheme for the Fishing for Litter project. This is jointly funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union. This project is designed to recover marine litter and reduce the amount of waste fishing gear going to landfill. It is also intended to raise awareness in the fishing industry of the negative impact such waste can have on the marine environment.
Through the Fishing for Litter project, fishing ports and fishermen have been actively recovering marine litter as well as better managing waste, both on board and ashore. This is done on a voluntary basis and while fishermen are not paid directly for their participation, they are supplied with large hardwearing bags in which they can collect marine litter that accumulates in their fishing gear as part of their normal fishing operations, as well as their own waste that they generate during fishing trips. Filled bags are returned to the quayside in participating ports and moved to secure containers ready for safe and responsible disposal. Specific waste facilities are provided at the participating fishing ports into which fishermen can deposit their waste free of charge. In 2017, around 50 trawlers in 9 ports - Clogherhead, Castletownbere, Ross A Mhil, Killybegs, Greencastle, Kinsale, Dunmore East and Dingle and Union Hall - participated in the project. As part of this project novel waste management technologies are being tested on board vessels.
In addition, since 2005, BIM has been working with industry on the recycling of old fishing gear. A total of 400 tonnes of nylon netting has been successfully recycled. During 2016 and 2017, BIM assisted by my Department, Donegal County Council, Wexford County Council, Clogherhead Development Group and several other private companies, cleared the stockpiles of old fishing gear that had built up over the years in various ports and prepared this for recycling. A total of 187 tonnes of bulk material was removed from the ports in counties Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Wexford and Louth, of which 100 tonnes consisted of valuable polyethylene netting that has been readied for recycling.
BIM’s Responsibly Sourced Seafood (RSS) standard compliments Origin Green. In developing Origin Green plans, seafood companies set targets around their raw material sourcing and reduction of their environmental impacts, including waste management. As part of each plan, companies are asked to source from suppliers with recognised certifications such as the Responsibly Sourced Seafood Fishing Vessel Standard or broader sustainability measures. The RSS system provides an accredited, independently certified raw material supply source as part of these plans. Individual certification to the RSS requires applicants to demonstrate compliance, awareness and understanding of the waste management procedures in their harbour centre or port. This benefits their fishing operations by assuring that fishermen are fishing responsibly and are committed to reducing their impacts on the marine environment.