As of 10 September 2020, there are 1,987 vessels registered on the Irish Register of Sea Fishing Boats and of these some 1,709 are under 12 metres.
During the first wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic there was significant market disruption in Europe and internationally accompanied by depressed market prices for fish. Our fishing fleet, not least the inshore sector, was significantly affected. Former Minister Creed met with representatives of our fisheries sector on a number of occasions to hear their views on the impacts of the Pandemic and how my Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme could support them. Representation included the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, the four fisheries producer organisations, the fisheries cooperatives and the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association. There was a positive and constructive engagement, with a broad consensus from industry representatives, including inshore fisheries representatives, that aid for temporary tie-up of fishing vessels should be the priority, enabling some vessels to choose to voluntarily tie-up, while others fished to meet market demands.
Following that engagement, Minister Creed introduced a Covid-19 Temporary Fleet Tie-up Scheme for fishing vessels in the Polyvalent, Beam Trawl and Specific segments of the fleet. The Scheme operated over three months June to August inclusive, and allowed vessel owners to voluntarily opt to tie up for a maximum of two months each. The Scheme was intended as a safety net scheme to assist fishermen who did not consider fishing to be economically viable during a temporary period of market disturbance and weak prices. The Scheme supported the fixed costs incurred by the vessel owners and as such was designed to complement the Covid-19 wage supports and loan arrangements already being provided by Government to the fishing sector and indeed other sectors of our economy. The supports to fixed costs available under the Scheme were based on official data derived from fishing vessel owners as part of the EU Data Collection Framework. Support payments for inshore vessel owners ranged from €800 per month for vessels between 10 and 12 metres, €750 per month for vessels between 8 and 10 metres and €500 per month for vessels under 8 metres.
For the month of June, some 67 vessels chose to tie up, of which 52 were inshore boats, for July 61 vessels of which 46 were inshore boats and for August 19 vessels of which 14 were inshore boats. Altogether some 147 tie-up payments were approved, of which 112 were inshore boats, although in some instances two payments were made to the same vessel owner where that person opted to tie up for two months.