NFFO want fuel aid options within weeks –

NFFO want fuel aid options within weeks Published:  15 May, 2008

Barrie Deas…options in weeks

UK FISHERIES Minister Jonathan Shaw has told fishermen’s leaders that he will provide support to help offset fuel costs.But this must be linked to to a long-term strategy for the industry.

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO,) yesterday pressed Mr Shaw for government support in light of the impact of rising fuel costs.The Federation told the Minister that:

· At current fuel prices many fishing vessels were not viable; the consequences of a do-nothing policy would be catastrophic.

· The fishing industry is unique in being unable to pass on higher fuel costs to the consumer as most fish is sold through an auction system.

· It was unacceptable for the UK industry to be put at a competitive disadvantage because other member states governments are providing short term support for their fishing industries.

· The EC state aid rules make explicit provision for member states to provide funding for industries that need urgent short-term support.

· A range of other support measures were available.

Speaking after the meeting, Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the NFFO said: “The Minister stated quite unequivocally that:

· he was committed to a profitable, sustainable fishing industry;

· that he intended to provide support for the fishing industry in view of the immediate difficulties that it faced

· but that this had to be linked to a long-term strategy for the industry

· He favoured a cross government approach but tough decisions on competing priorities would be required.

· He was reviewing costed options that would be discussed further with the NFFO as soon as the preparatory work is complete.”

· Today Mr Deas said he expected a set of options to be produced by Mr Shaw’s department “within weeks.”

NFFO Chairman, Scarborough skipper, Fred Normandale, said:

“The Minister listened attentively as we outlined the desperate state of the industry and the bleak outlook without short term support. He appeared to sincerely want to find a way of providing support and undertook to identify what funding was available and the best means of providing it.”

Paul Trebilcock, Chief Executive of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation added:

“We stressed the urgency of the situation. We are looking for support in weeks not months if it is to make any difference. The Minister recognised this as a national issue, affecting the whole fleet and undertook to work with the national body, the NFFO, to provide a solution. I handed the keys of an under 12m vessel from Newlyn to the Minister because the skipper is quite clear that without support, the Minister might as well take the boat now.”

Alan McCulla, Chief Executive of the Anglo North Irish Fish Producers Organisation, said,

“We reminded the Minister that the industry was not passively waiting for a handout. It was adapting to the new era of high fuel costs by improving fuel efficiency, and maximising the value of each kilo of fish through marketing initiatives. But the unprecedentedly rapid rise in fuel costs demands urgent government support to safeguard the fabric of the fishing industry.”

Measures under consideration as part of a relief package for the fishing industry include:

· The de minimus provision available under EC state aid rules (up to 30,000 euros per enterprise over 3 years).

· Removal of light dues as the UK is the only fishing industry in Europe obliged to pay for the upkeep of navigational aids that they rarely, if ever use.

· Vessel Monitoring System: Satellite monitoring costs.

· Electronic log books.

· The European Fisheries Fund will be available in the medium term.

· Life boat servicing costs-help is already going to Scottish fishermen.

· Parity of tax exemption with offshore workers

· Support to ensure that fuel is delivered duty free to all fishermen, so easing cash flow. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.