Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue welcomes State Aid approval for Brexit Voluntary Decommissioning Scheme for Whitefish fleet – up to €60 million in direct payments.
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Reacting to the approval decision by the EU Commission Minister McConalogue said: “The Seafood Task Force, which included representatives of the five fisheries producer organisations and the four main fisheries cooperatives, recommended in its October 2021 report that a voluntary decommissioning scheme should be implemented to help restore balance between fishing fleet capacity and available quotas, following the reductions in quotas for stocks arising from the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”
Minister McConalogue said “I have ensured that the dimensions of the Scheme will follow the Recommendations of the Taskforce.”
The Task Force considered that a scheme targeting the voluntary decommissioning of vessels with total capacity of up to 8,000 gross tonnes and 21,000 kilowatts could restore the viability of the remaining fleet. Today’s decision makes way for implementing this key recommendation of the Task Force which will offer vessel owners a premium of up to €12,000 per gross tonne.
This will comprise a basic premium of €3,600 per gross tonne and a catch incentive premium of up to €8,400.
The catch incentive premium paid will reflect the TCA quota stocks catch history of the vessel applying, ensuring that the scheme is most attractive to active vessels, whose voluntary departure from the fleet can contribute most to rebalancing the remaining fleet with the reduced quota available.
The Minister added “In line with the Recommendations of the Taskforce I am also requiring that owners of vessels who choose to participate in the scheme must ensure that crew working on their vessel are compensated for their loss of livelihood following the decommissioning of their vessel.” The scheme provides for a payment by the vessel owner to the crew member for each year of service in the fleet, up to a maximum of €50,000 for a crew member who had worked in the fleet for 40 years.
The Seafood Task Force recommended that in order to achieve the objective of improving the viability of the fleet within available fishing quotas post Brexit a package of tax measures be put in place to support vessel owners who choose to apply to leave the fleet under what is a voluntary exit scheme.
The tax measures recommended by the Seafood Task Force in relation to payments under the scheme were enacted on 2 June 2022 through section 15 of the Finance (Covid-19 and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2022, which provide for beneficial treatment of the scheme payments with regard to capital gains and income tax with potential benefit up to €20m.
Minister McConalogue concluded: “This scheme flows directly from the recommendations of the Seafood Task Force. I have asked BIM to ensure that the scheme will allow for an adequate period of time for vessel owners to reflect before making what are important decisions in relation to whether or not they wish to avail of the Scheme.
"The overall package of measures that are being implemented on foot of the Seafood Taskforce Recommendations will contribute to the long-term viability of the fishing fleet, the wider seafood sector and the coastal communities dependent upon it.”
An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) will administer the Scheme and will publish full technical details and open the scheme in a matter of weeks. A fund of up to €60m in direct payments is available to deliver the voluntary scheme. ■