European Commission approves €1m Irish scheme to support fishing co-ops affected by Brexit

The European Commission has cleared under EU state aid rules a €1 million Irish scheme to mitigate the impact of reduced landed fish quotas on cooperatives fishing following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Support will be available for fishing cooperatives that mainly focus on fish species whose quota has been reduced and that depend on the commission collected from the landings of fish species caught by their members’ vessels for their income.

Under this scheme, compensation will be given in the form of a direct subsidy to cover the loss of income resulting from the shortage of landed fish. Eligible fishing cooperatives will be able to receive up to €250,000. The program will continue until December 31 this year.

It is planned that the measure will be financed under the Brexit adjustment reserve (BAR), created to mitigate the economic and social impact of Brexit, subject to approval under the specific provisions governing the financing of this instrument.

The committee assessed the measure against Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which allows member states to support the development of certain economic activities or regions under certain conditions , and with regard to the Guidelines for the examination of State aid to the fisheries and aquaculture sector.

The commission says the program will ensure that the fishing and processing sector and shore-based fishing-related activities remain economically viable and competitive.

It adds that approval under EU advertising rules was granted on the grounds that the scheme facilitates the development of economic activity and does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest.

Announcing the scheme on Friday July 22, Navy Minister Charlie McConalogue said: “Co-operatives collectively manage the sale and distribution of almost €100 million worth of fish. During the year 2021, the sales of the cooperatives were reduced by approximately 15 million euros compared to 2019, resulting in a loss of commission for the cooperatives of up to 1.2 million euros.

“This has caused cash flow difficulties for the cooperatives throughout 2021, limiting their financial ability to reconfigure and restructure their activities to adapt to the changed business environment under the trade and cooperation agreement.

“The Brexit Fisheries Co-operative Transition Scheme I am announcing today will provide cash assistance of 7.5% of the reduction in fish sales for the co-operative’s boats compared to 2019, up to a payment maximum of €250,000 per eligible co-op The scheme will be open to fishing co-ops that focus primarily on TCA quota species – i.e. co-ops whose member landings comprise 75% or more of species of the TCA quota.

More plan details will be available on the BIM website.

Aurora J. William