New emergency funding offered for EU’s coronavirus-hit seafood industry

Published on
April 3, 2020

A new set of measures designed to help the European Union’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been proposed by the European Commission through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

With fishers forced to stay in port and fish farmers facing the prospect of having to dispose of unused products, the E.C. said the new measures could provide immediate aid during the coronavirus crisis.

Aimed at protecting jobs and supply chains, the package includes financial support for the temporary cessation of fishing activities, for aquaculture farmers for the suspension of production and additional costs, and to support producer organizations in the storage of fishery and aquaculture products, rather than have them wasted or redirected to non-human food purposes.

If the new measures are introduced, additional amendments will be made to the EMFF regulation, allowing for the more flexible reallocation of financial resources within the operational programs of each member state, and for a simplified procedure for amending operational programs.

“Europe’s fishermen and aquaculture farmers are used to fighting the elements. But the coronavirus is a different kind of storm. The commission therefore proposes a range of targeted actions addressing the urgent challenges that our seafood community faces. These measures will help protecting thousands of jobs in the EU’s coastal regions and maintaining food security,” European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said.

Provided the E.C.’s proposal is adopted by the council and the European Parliament without amendments, expenditure for operations supported under the specific coronavirus-related measures will be retroactively eligible as of 1 February, 2020, until 31 December, 2020.

Ireland’s Killybegs Fisheries Organisation is among those to welcome the proposed measures. Its chief executive, Seán O’Donoghue, said that the combination of simultaneous challenges around vessels being tied up as well as “seismic difficulties” around the market price collapse and a lack of cold storage for products “has created the perfect, horrendous storm” for the fisheries sector.  

“We are hugely concerned at the ability of our members to continue to supply safe and healthy seafood and welcome today’s measures which allow the sector to continue to operate in the short-term in this unprecedented crisis,” he said. “This legislative package provides some solace for our members who are trying to keep the supply of food as constant as possible in the chaos which is encircling us all.”

Last month, the European Commission introduced a temporary state aid framework enabling E.U. member-states to provide financial support to affected operators in the commercial fishing and aquaculture sectors. As such, member states are able to provide aid up to EUR 120,000 (USD 129,724) per industry undertaking, provided as grants or tax advantages.

This aid can be granted until 31 December, 2020, to undertakings that face difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The framework was also delivered with the promise of very swift assessments and decision-making. 

Photo courtesy of European Parliament

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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