A total of €12 million funding under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Operational Programme has been awarded to seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).
Groups from Kerry, Galway, Clare, Mayo, Sligo , Donegal, Cork , Louth, Meath, Dublin , Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford were recently selected as part of a competitive process under the community led local development element of the €240 million EMFF Operational Programme. The funding is 50% financed by the EU. The funding will be available to the FLAGs over the period 2017 to 2021. The 7 FLAGs are presently drafting Local Development Strategies which will serve to guide them in selecting local projects to support in their areas. Local Development Strategies are expected to be approved before the end of 2016.
The West FLAG has proposed that it will cover the coastal area (10k inland) of Galway and Clare, excluding the populations of Galway City and Ennis. It has been allocated €1.8 million for the programme period, essentially 2017 to 2021. This compares to €262,000 dispersed by the West FLAG under the previous Programme.
This very significant increase in funding to the West FLAG will provide the group with the necessary resources to pursue in its area the FLAG Scheme’s strategy of promoting innovative approaches in fisheries and aquaculture areas to create growth and jobs in those areas, in particular by adding value to fishery and aquaculture products and diversifying the local economy towards new economic activities, in particular those offered by ‘blue growth’ and the broader maritime sectors.
A spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine told The Clare Herald that the exact areas that the funding will go towards. “The FLAG scheme is a community led local development initiative, which means that it is a matter for the FLAGs to invite applications in due course for grant aid and to select projects for funding, consistent with their Local Development Strategy. It is therefore not possible to say how much grant aid will ultimately be dispersed in either Clare or Galway or to any particular town”.
Announcing the funding, Minister Michael Creed said: “This funding will be allocated by and to those communities by the 7 FLAGs recently established. The FLAGs are made up of local actors from the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and others with a strong interest in fostering the development of our coastal communities”.
Bord Iascaigh Mhara is providing administrative and technical support to the 7 FLAGs through a separate EMFF Technical Assistance budget line. The groups do have the discretion to use some of their allocations to fund additional support services to assist them in carrying out their functions, if they so wish.
Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Iascaigh Mhara commented: “As the State agency responsible for providing a range of administrative and technical supports to the FLAG’s, we welcome the significant increase in funding for a programme that has already contributed €1.5 million in direct and indirect investment to our coastal communities.
“Each of the FLAG groups represents 7 coastal communities where the importance of the Irish Seafood Sector from our fishermen to seafood processors and retailers is paramount. This increase in funding will enable BIM to assist the FLAG groups to develop strategic plans that will enhance and in some cases diversify their existing marine related resource and enterprise”.