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BIM & SFPA red tape denying tie-up scheme benefits to small boat fishermen

By now most people in the fishing industry will be aware of the compensatory ‘tie-up’ scheme which is intended to give fishermen a form of relief package payment to not go to sea for one month, with various levels of payments depending on the size of the vessel. But according to reports to the IFSA this week it would appear that those at the very lowest level of the fleet, those vessels with actually the lowest level of revenue, are being denied the right to claim even the minuscule payment that they should be entitled to. Several small IFSA member vessels have relayed the problems they are facing due to red tape and paperwork and, in the event of not being able to provide documentation for every single fish caught & sold, they feel that they are being victimised, or that their data is being used as a ‘fishing trip’ by the SFPA to manipulate this scheme to gather as much information as possible (information not always relevant to the tie-up scheme application). Taking one particular case (although there are many), one fisherman applied for the tie-up scheme compensation package for his 20ft punt which, since the State closure of the wild salmon and eel fisheries, he mainly targets codling from October to February. But since his local co-op closed down some time ago, he had no other option, if he wanted to continue to stay in business, than to sell his small volume of regular catches (less than half a box on average) to fish shops and to private individuals. But now, despite a complete formal tax audit proving a gross income of €9,000 for the Oct - Feb season last year, his application for the tie-up scheme is being refused on the grounds that he cannot provide formal Sales Notes for all of his catches as some of the buyers/consumers were private parties or individuals. In pleading his case, BIM responded by blaming the SFPA and the SFPA blamed BIM - leaving this man, and many others like him, unable to seek the basic compensation that they should be receiving. This is certainly one case where Ireland’s administrators cannot deflect blame to the EU Commission or even the Irish Government - it is nothing less than a cold-hearted attempt to find any opportunity or any means possible to deny inshore fishermen, the backbone of the fishing industry, the right to even small amounts of compensation. A compensation percentage of a €9,000 gross revenue is going to be a small amount – and even if multiplied across a range of inshore vessels, is hardly going to put a dent in the overall compensation amount set aside for the Irish fleet - but to be so pedantic and ‘jobs worthy’ to not give the slightest leeway or consideration to the situation which many small boat owners must be in is incompetence at best and at worst, sheer spitefulness towards a sector that most needs help at this time. Every coastal politician in this country has at one stage or another said “I care about the coastal communities and the people who make a living from the sea” - well now, for God’s sake, get involved and ask BIM and the SFPA to sort this out immediately - the inshore fishermen and their families who voted for you are watching and waiting…

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