The Commission took another step forward today in its action to help rehabilitate the fisheries and aquaculture sector in the areas hit by the tsunami that struck in the Indian Ocean on 26 December. Thus, it adopted a Decision to provide immediate and more long-term technical expertise and assistance to the countries concerned. Experts will contribute to the assessment of the reconstruction requirements in fisheries and aquaculture in these areas. They will also assist in the implementation of the agreed rehabilitation measures in this sector. The Commission also proposes to amend some rules in the Fisheries Fund, the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG), so as to remove the legal obstacles to the co-financing of a possible transfer of fishing vessels from the European Union to the affected areas (see MEMO/05/21). The Commission wants to ensure that, if the assessment currently being carried out by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in these areas, show that such a permanent transfer could contribute to the rebuilding of the local fishing fleets, the necessary measures are in place to effect it. These initiatives are part of a package of measures aiming to help the rebuilding of the devastated fisheries and aquaculture sector which, after tourism, has been the most affected economic sector in the countries concerned.
“The Council and European Parliament have already expressed support for the measures envisaged by the Commission to help rebuild the fisheries sector in the areas concerned. In co-ordination with the FAO and the Member States, we must ensure that our measures respond to the needs of the local sector in a way that will contribute to sustainable fisheries. Monitoring of the implementation will also be crucial to the success of these measures”, Commissioner Joe Borg, responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, commented.
The Commission Decision provides for the immediate mobilising of European and international expertise for impact assessment and identification of reconstruction requirements in the countries and areas concerned. This will subsequently be followed by the provision of relevant expertise to ensure the necessary implementation and provision of financial and technical assistance on a longer-term basis.
With regard to the possible transfer of vessels, the Commission proposes that to be eligible, vessels will have to be under 12 metres and between 5 and 20 years old. The transfer of vessels to the affected areas would end on 30 June 2006. The grants to be allocated to EU vessel owners would be those currently available under the FIFG for the permanent removal of such vessels from the EU fleet. An additional premium of up to 20% is proposed to meet the cost of transport to the affected areas by public or private interests and to ensure that the vessel is equipped and seaworthy.