The new European Fisheries Fund (EFF), approved yesterday by the bloc's fishery ministers, will replace the current aid money from 1 January 2007. With fishing quotas in the EU sharply curtailed to accounting for declining stocks, the industry is having to adapt to extremely constrained and variable supplies.
The funding is meant to help businesses adapt to the difficult circumstances and become more competitive. It will also target measures to protect and enhance the environment. Support will be reinforced for measures to help ensure the industry has access to the skilled labour force it requires, the European Commission said in a statement yesterday.
The decision also ends public funding "that has in the past contributed to increasing fishing capacity", the European Commission stated.
The EFF will run for seven years, with a total budget of around €3.8 billion. Funding will be available for all sectors of the industry - sea and inland fisheries, aquaculture businesses, producer organisations, and the processing and marketing sectors - as well as for fisheries sectors.
Aid to the aquaculture, processing and marketing sectors will now include medium-sized and some large enterprises. Small and micro enterprises will still be given priority in the line up for funds.
It will be up to member states to decide how they allocate funds based on the policies agreed upon yesterday.
In the future, member states will be required to draw up a national strategic plan for the entire fisheries sector. All assistance will be channelled through a single national EFF programme, rather than the many different programmes that existed in the past.
In order to keep up with demand for fish supplies in the EU, the bloc's members have had to keep up a high level of imports. Years of over-fishing have left stocks in European waters depleted, a situation that the EU is attempting to address through its 2002 Common Fisheries Policy.
In 2003, EU15 imported nearly €13 billion worth of fishery products, while the value of its exports came to just €2.5 billion.
The two principal EU trading partners in fishery products are Norway and Iceland. Over half of all EU fish imports come from ten countries.