Like the Deputy, I am aware of the increase in fuel costs, as well as the effects that this is having on our fishers. The Agriculture and Fisheries Council, AGRIFISH, meeting on 21 March initiated a debate on the impact of increasing fuel costs for the fishing industry. I emphasised to the Commissioner that these increased fuel costs come on top of difficulties that had already been created by Covid-19, as well as, of course, the impact of the quota reductions under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. I called on the Commission to urgently examine and approve measures through flexibility within the European programmes and fisheries funds that would allow funds to be allocated towards the challenges facing the industry, particularly the fuel crisis.
On 25 March, the Commission adopted and implemented a decision to trigger the crisis mechanism of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, EMFAF, recognising the Russian military aggression as an exceptional event that is causing market disruption and thereby making it possible for member states grant two types of financial compensation to mitigate the impacts of costs stemming from market disruption and specific storage mechanisms. The Commission is continuing to explore other solutions, including possible action in the framework of the EMFAF, to make use of the remaining available financial resources.
In relation to addressing the challenges arising from the transfer of quota under the EU Brexit agreement, I have submitted schemes to the Commission for state aid approval, involving a voluntary two-month tie-up scheme in 2022 and a voluntary decommissioning scheme for the polyvalent sector of the fleet. I met with representatives of the fishing sector at the Irish Skipper Expo last Friday, just six days ago. I advised them of the progress on these and other important schemes, as recommended by the task force which I established. This sector has welcomed the two-month tie-up scheme. As the Deputy knows, the tie-up scheme, which is available to each boat, involves having a boat tied up for one month in each three-month period. The fishers are then are paid for the equivalent of what they would have been catching in that month, and the quota that they would have been catching is available to other boats that are still out. This effectively increases the quota available for the boats that are fishing in that month by 50%. It is a key measure to support the sector.