Ireland’s fleet-decommissioning scheme for whitefish vessels has thus far made offers to 57 vessel-owners and has received acceptances from 20.

A spokesperson for fisheries and aquaculture state agency Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), which is overseeing the scheme, said BIM needs more participation in the program in order to successfully rebalance fish quotas following post-Brexit agreements.

The EUR 75 million (USD 79.2 million) Brexit Permanent Cessation Scheme – similar to a separate decommissioning program initiated in 2008 – seeks to retire a third of Ireland’s whitefish fleet, or around 60 vessels. Thus far, there have been 64 applications to the program, of which 57 vessels were found to be eligible, according to The Fishing Daily. But just 20 vessels have entered the program thus far, with three trawlers have already been dismantled and 17 queued to be scrapped.

Vessel owners receive between EUR 200,000 to EUR 1.4 million (USD 211,000 to USD 1.5 million) for entering the program, depending on the size of the vessel and other factors. The plan targets the voluntary decommissioning of vessels with total capacity of up to 8,000 gross tons and 21,000 kilowatts, offering owners a premium of up to EUR 12,000 (USD 12,700) per gross ton and crew members up to EUR 50,000 (USD 52,800) each.

The Irish South and West Fish Producer’s Organisation and the Irish Fish Producers Organisation are among the fishing trade groups that have voiced anger over the scheme. IFPO CEO Aodh O’Donnell said Ireland’s fleet has struggled after losing fishing quotas due to Brexit, forcing Irish fish producers out of business.

Donnell said doesn’t expect more than 30 vessel owners to sign up for the scheme under its current terms.

“It appears that the offer is not enough for some of the fishermen,” he said. “The criteria attached to the scheme is not attractive and the state [is] making it complicated. If 60 vessels don’t exit the sector, the rebalancing of quotas will be more difficult, as the remaining fleet will be left chasing a reduced quota of fish to catch.”

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