THE County Down fishing ports of Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie are gearing up for a new round of funding opportunities through the European Fisheries Fund.
The assistance from the European Union will be aimed at improving the quality of life in fisheries areas supporting the Common Fisheries Policy and taking account of the socio-economic effects of the projects.
It is understood that a pot of £2.45million will be made available for the County Down fishing communities, however, a further tranche of fishing community funding is also expected to be made available following this package.
A public meeting was held in Ardglass Golf Club and members of the fishing industry and community were represented and listened to a presentation by representative Sam Simpson of Clear Direction Consulting.
To date a Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) has been set up comprising public and private partners from within the fishing industry, and from other relevant sectors and agencies.
FLAG member Down District Councillor Dermot Curran has welcomed the package saying: “This will be of great benefit to the fishing communities. The measures under Axis 4 aim to promote economic activity and social prosperity in these areas and also to add value to fisheries’ and aquaculture products.
“The fund is also designed to boost jobs in these towns and surrounding areas through diversification away from fishing effort and towards economic and social restructuring. Because of the many difficulties the fishing industry faces such as high fuel prices, technical measures, shrinking quotas and days at sea limitations, environmental issues and stock matters, the industry and indeed the communities need to take a serious look at where they are going over the next few years.
“Other important objectives in this funding measure include efforts to improve the quality of our environment. The fishing industry is required through the EU to work towards greater environmental sustainability.
“And there is also an expectation that there is more cooperation in the fishing industry across EU borders.
“The next few months will be about getting our ideas on the table to shape the strategy that the Fisheries Division will finally put out to consultation. Then it will be focused on presenting individual projects to the funders. This programme in conjunction with other EU initiatives such as Axis 3 can make a huge difference to our communities and we must avail of this great opportunity.”
A discussion followed the presentation at the meeting and Ardglass fisherman Martin Rice said: “I think it is important to promote education and training for fishermen in this area. There are a large number of people who need to be trained on a regular basis and they have to travel many miles to get this essential training. I would urge fishermen to think long and hard about projects and business opportunities that they could develop. Help is available to turn your ideas into reality. ”
Another proposal mooted at the meeting was to build a working slip in the harbour for the fishing boats to cut down travelling time and waiting at the Portavogie and Kilkeel slipways. However, this project would be fundable under Axis 3 if presented with perhaps a part of it under the Axis 4 umbrella.
The eligible measures of the EFF Axis 4 Programme:
- Making fishery areas more competitive
- Restructuring economic activities without increasing fishing effort.
- Creating multiple employment for fishermen through additional jobs outside the fishery sector.
- Adding value to fishery products
- Supporting small fisheries and tourism related infrastructure and services for the benefit of small fishery communities
- Protecting the environment to maintain its visual attractiveness, and regenerating coastal villages with fisheries activities, and protecting and enhancing the natural and built heritage.
- Re-establishing the production potential of the fishing sector when affected by natural and industrial disasters.
- Promoting networking across borders and between regions.
- Acquiring key skills and facilitating the preparation and implementation of the local development strategy.
- Contributing to the running costs of groups and disseminating best practice.