Taking advantage of the EMFF: Funding for Fishermen

4th March 2017

In January 2016, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund opened in the UK to allot its share of approximately €243 million of funding. The money is part of a Europe wide scheme aimed at:

  • helping the fishing sector transition to more sustainable methods,
  • sustain coastal communities and to,
  • finance projects that will create more jobs in the maritime industry.

Though the fund was originally planned to run in the UK until 2020, the future of the funding still remains in the balance until the terms of BREXIT can be fully realised.

The funds allocated to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are each being managed by the managing authorities prevailing in their nation.

For the moment, the money is still available for the UK’s fishing sector and can be applied against a whole range of products. Here, we take a look at who can apply for funding, what kind of things you can get funding for and the process of the application.

In Ireland, the fund available is slightly different. Managed by the Department of Food, Agriculture and the Marine (DAFM), the EMF funding has been combined with a contribution made by the Exchequer, to fund Ireland's Operational Programme (OP). Fundamentally the OP has the same aims as the UK's EMFF in supporting reform to the EU's Common Fishery Policy.

What kind of project can you get funding for?

Funding is available for many different types of projects, products and investments. In order to qualify, these must fall into one of six predefined project types, namely:

*Fishing vessel energy improvements

  • Investments on board vessels
  • Shore-based improvements
  • Partnerships, information sharing, advisory services, job creation and training
  • The marine environment and inland fishing
  • Support for Aquaculture, Processing and Marketing

Each of the categories has specific guidance on what does and does not qualify for funding but generally speaking, projects which achieve any of the following are likely to be approved:

  • Improvements for health and safety
  • Energy efficient improvements (gear or vessel)
  • Improvements to fishing ports, landing sites, auction halls and shelters
  • Innovative ways to diversify the maritime or aquaculture sectors
  • Job creation for the fishing or aquaculture sectors
  • Boost the quality or value of your products
  • Innovation in the use of unwanted catch

You can also receive funding to help with marketing and expanding your business into new areas as well as finding new ways to increase your productivity.

Successful applications for funding have already been made for projects such as new energy efficient fishing gear, replacement engines, investment in new hull designs and propulsion systems. The funding is diverse and includes innovations in products such as insulated fish tubs as well as start up help for young fishermen.

In the last 12 months funding has been made available for:

  • Purchase and installation of onboard weighing and fish handling systems
  • Safety equipment for vessels under 15m
  • Purchasing a first new boat for a private individual (young fisherman)
  • Trawl monitoring systems
  • Shed renovations to help maintain the quality of lobster
  • Enhancements made to deck safety
  • Installation of high capacity ice plant
  • Hold refrigeration
  • New engine for existing vessels
  • Trial creels
  • Insulated fish containers

Funding is also available for training, advisory services and education projects.

How much funding can you get?

The diversity of the applications that are being approved is far reaching and includes those made by private individuals and medium sized enterprises. Funding can be as little as a few hundred pounds and up to several hundred thousand pounds.

It is important to note that any funding for which you apply for must be matched by a UK public source (in Scotland, this is the Scottish Government) and must be in place prior to application.

However, some applicants can receive 100% funding if they are a public organisation, a private organisation whose activities are of general economic interest (SGEI).

Depending on which category of project you are applying for funding in and how the money is being spent will determine exactly which parts you can achieve funding for. For instance, land costs cannot form part of the application if, for instance, your project is to increase the size of refrigeration facilities; however, plant and equipment might be.

Who can apply for funding?

The €243 million is available for applicants from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales with an approximate split being:

  • England: €92.1 million
  • Scotland: €107.7 million
  • Ireland: €23.5 million
  • Wales: €19.7 million

If you are the owner of a UK (or EU) registered fishing vessel and you use an English, Scottish, Welsh of Northern Irish port from which to fish commercially then you can apply for funding. This includes but is not limited to (though certain criteria must be met for some of the classes):

  • Owner-operator fishermen/women, spouses or their legal partner
  • A small, medium or micro sized business with fewer than 250 members of staff and has a balance sheet total of less than £36,596,502 or a turnover of less than £34,525,001.
  • Universities and research institutes
  • An organisation of fishermen/women
  • a producer organisation
  • an association, including new aquaculture farmers
  • involved in production, processing, marketing, distribution of fisheries and aquaculture products
  • a public or semi-public organisation
  • an aquaculture organisation
  • non-governmental organisations

Anyone who has a conviction for fraud may not apply for funding under this scheme. Nor can anyone who has been convicted of a serious infringement apply for funding within the 12 months following the date that conviction has been spent.

The application

Applicants must first register with the [EMFF scheme management system](https://eurofish.marinemanagement.org.uk/eurofish/Public/Home.aspx?ctxid )(note: Wales uses a different system which can be accessed here).

Guidance for your application are available through the managing authorities of the scheme in your nation. In addition to completing the application form, you will also need to provide additional documentation.

For more sizeable projects, this will include cash flow forecasts and three years’ accounts plus business case templates. Where applicable, copies of any relevant licenses, permissions and consents should also be included with your application.

You will also need to provide copies of quotes that you have received from suppliers, printouts or photocopies of the products which form part of the quote.

Things to bear in mind

If you receive funding through the EMFF for a vessel, then that vessel must stay in the EU for five years after the date of which funding was granted. If the vessel leaves the EU during this time frame, then all or part of the money paid under the projects funding must be paid back in full.

Applying for funding from another source alongside the EMFF can jeopardise the application and must be declared to the managing authority. Any changes of ownership relating to the assets under which funding has been approved for (up to five years after the date funding was ranted) must be advised to the managing authority and could result in recovery of the money paid out.

Larger projects will usually be subject to inspection by appointed officials from the EMFF and audits may be undertaken on the paperwork submitted. As this could happen during the application, implementation or up to five years’ post implementation of the project accurate and full records should be kept securely for this period.

Funding from any source is welcome news for the fishing industry, particularly that which helps to improve efficiency, promote innovation and diversity as well as boost employment and education, is a good thing. The EMFF may, in some cases, prove an arduous process by which to secure it but is an area which is worth investigating for those looking for help with sizeable project funding needs. In light of the changes that will result from the result of the BREXIT vote, it might be worth looking into these sooner rather than later.

For more assistance with the EMFF and how you could obtain funding for your project, you should speak to your local managing authority for your nation.

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