EU fishing sector calls for emergency measures to avoid stoppage of fleet

Fishing boats in an unnamed harbour in Ireland
Fishing boats in an unnamed harbour in Ireland

Representatives of the European fisheries sector met recently with EU Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevičius in view of the sharp rise in energy and logistics prices due to the invasion of Ukraine.

At the virtual meeting, the sector, represented by Europêche and by the European Association of Fisheries Producer Organisations (EAPO), reiterated the need to adopt urgent measures in view of the turn of events, following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the impact that the war is already having on the activity of the European fishing fleets.

"For months the sector has been facing a difficult economic situation enduring a steep increase in gas and electricity prices and logistic costs," President of Europêche, Mr Javier Garat, declared during the meeting. "Now, fuel prices are reaching an all-time high. The situation is even worse than the fuel crises of 2008."

Mr Garat added that, for many vessels it is impossible to go to sea, and fishing vessels in all the member states are tying up as a consequence of the sharp increase of energy costs.

"If the stoppage of the activity becomes a generalised problem, there could be problems with the supply of fishery products in a matter of weeks, even more so if sanctions are imposed on those of Russian origin."

The sector has expressed the need for an urgent reaction from the EU, similar to that adopted to face the consequences of Brexit and Covid.

Europêche the fishing industry representatives proposed action on five priority axes:

  1. Use the EU Fisheries Fund to compensate operators for the additional costs;
  2. Help fishers who have to temporarily cease their activities;
  3. Support producer organizations for the temporary storage of fishery products;
  4. Increase the aid within the state aid framework up to €300,000 to €500,000 (US$329,360 to US$548,940) per vessel; and
  5. Increase the year-to-year quota flexibility from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

The sector has also pointed out the need for additional measures in coordination with the EU Member States, such as the reduction of social security contributions, the suspension of fish auction taxes, an extension period for Covid loans or a suspension/reduction of VAT on fish and shellfish aimed at alleviating the situation.

Mr Sinkevičius emphasised that the commission is taking the situation very seriously and working around the clock on solutions. He committed to study the measures urged by the sector and proposed to hold another meeting once the package of measures is more clearly defined.

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