EU Commissioner: EUR 500 million seafood support top-up will aid sector’s recovery

The additional EUR 500 million (USD 560.3 million) - added to the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) last week - will strengthen the recovery and resilience of the E.U.’s fisheries sector as the region’s economy slowly reopens, according to European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius.

The additional funding, which is part of the Commission’s Recovery Package, represents an increase of more than 8 percent compared to the budget initially proposed for the EMFF in 2018.

Following previous E.U. support measures introduced to alleviate the immediate socio-economic impact on the sector, it will feed member states’ programs for 2021-2024, frontloading financial support in the first years of recovery.

In a statement, Sinkevičius acknowledged that the fishery and aquaculture sectors have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Markets were disrupted and many businesses suffered severe economic losses because of the lockdown. For many coastal communities, who strongly rely on fisheries for their livelihoods, the situation was – and still is – dramatic,” he said.

The commission, Sinkevičius said, has aimed to keep the industry viable in both the short and long term.

“The European Commission acted decisively from the beginning of the crisis. Our immediate concern was to ensure that this short-term disruption would not lead to long-term socio-economic damage such as bankruptcies and major job losses in coastal communities,” he said. “Now that economic activity is slowly restarting across Europe, we are moving to a second phase of action, which is to support recovery and, importantly, to make the sector more resilient to future crisis.”

Sinkevičius insisted that the Recovery Package goes beyond short-term thinking, as it aims to deal with some of the structural challenges and is based on shared European priorities, he said.

“This additional funding aims to strengthen the resilience of the fisheries sector and provide the necessary scope for crisis management in the future. In this respect, all EMFF funding will continue to promote the achievement of the economic, social and environmental objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy,” he said.

To help support the seafood industry when the pandemic initially took hold in Europe and to avoid an immediate collapse of the sector, the European Commission proposed a first rescue package directed at promoting investments by mobilizing available cash reserves in the European Structural and Investments Funds. That proposal extended the scope of mutual funds and aquaculture stock insurance under the EMFF to the compensation of losses caused by a public health crisis.

Next, the commission reinforced measures to support the general economy with a new temporary framework for state aid targeted to fisheries already in mid-March. It also allowed member-states to support their fishers and aquaculture producers with up to EUR 120,000 (USD 134,479).

Then, after coordination with the sector and other institutions, the E.C. proposed a second rescue package and introduced an EMFF amendment to support fishers during the temporary halt of their activities. It also gave compensation to aquaculture farmers and the fish processing sector, as well as storage aid to producer organizations.

Photo courtesy of the European Commission


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