Monday, May 23, 2005

Jim Allister on Fisheries

Jim Allister made this statement today at the European Parliament fishery committee, here is the official communique:
"The Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament has been engaged in detailed consideration of a proposal from the Commission for a European Fisheries Fund, which will supersede existing funding arrangements and set the funding framework for 2007-2013. MEP Jim Allister, who serves on the committee, has regularly contributed on this subject and, today in Brussels made further representations on five key issues. Mr Allister said:-
"With three quarters of the funding designated for "convergence objective" regions, this proposal, as it stands, will do little for Northern Ireland. As part of a nation which fails to meet the convergence criteria, we won't qualify for most of the available aid. Yet, in fishing terms, Northern Ireland lags very far behind much of Europe.
With an average fleet age of 33 years, our industry is showing all the signs of under-investment and the British government's failure to draw down EU funding because it is not willing to co-finance the necessary investment. Our fleet is down to approximately one third of what it was some years ago. We cannot have a sustainable industry with a non-sustainable fleet.
I therefore strongly support the rapporteur in saying that the fund should also provide for the specific needs of the fisheries sector in each Member State, irrespective of its convergence status. It is not good enough that in the Commission's proposal, its vision is hidebound by a slavish attachment to the convergence objective. This will do nothing but succeed in managing further decline in our fishing industry.
Secondly, I very much support the rapporteur in identifying the suppression of construction and modernisation aid as unacceptable aspects of the Commission's proposals. The capacity to secure such aid is imperative to the survival of the industry in a region such as mine.
Thirdly, I also support the call to decouple aid for temporary cessation from permanent capacity reduction and the desirability of extending it to seasonal cessation of activity.
Fourthly, in the processing field, I oppose the exclusion of aid from all but the smallest companies. We have a number of processors in Northern Ireland who would not qualify under this regulation as presently drafted, because they employ more than 50 people. Thus, I support a substantial raising of the threshold.
Finally, I support the call for proper support for young people entering the industry. A new entrants scheme is essential if the industry is not to die of old age. Old boats and old fishermen cannot secure the future."


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