DAERA Marine and Fisheries Director Dr. John Speers, Mayor of Ards and North Down Council Richard Smart, Chair of SEAFLAG Alderman Angus Carson, Chairman of Newry Mourne and Down District Council Mark Murnin and Director of Regeneration & Tourism, Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Marie Ward.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the South-East Area Fisheries Local Action Group (SEAFLAG) have launched a £2.4million Community-led Local Development (CLLD) initiative for County Down fishing communities.

The £2.4million investment programme is provided through Union Priority 4 of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). It aims to support a broad range of projects that focus on promoting economic growth through job creation, social inclusion and providing support to employability and labour mobility in coastal and inland communities which depend on fishing and aquaculture. This includes the diversification of activities within fisheries and into other sectors of the maritime economy.

The funding programme will be administered by the SEAFLAG which comprises of representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors within the two council regions of Newry, Mourne & Down, and Ards & North Down.

Speaking at the launch event in Ardglass, DAERA Marine and Fisheries Director Dr. John Speers said: “This fund provides the opportunity to deliver meaningful and sustainable socio-economic benefits to the communities along the County Down coastline that continue to rely on the fishing industry, either directly or via its associated support industries, for job opportunities and wealth-creation.   

“The bottom-up approach used in developing the SEAFLAG’s sustainable development strategy for delivering Community-led Local Development has drawn upon the experiences gained from delivering a similar programme of support provided through the preceding European Fisheries Fund programme. This approach will help ensure that the available support will focus on addressing the needs of communities that they themselves have identified. 

“I commend SEAFLAG in delivering the required strategy and would encourage anyone with any project, or project idea, that is linked to community, business, tourism or leisure development to engage with the delivery body to determine what financial and/or technical assistance can be provided.

“This funding represents one of the largest allocations awarded to any Fisheries Local Action Group throughout Europe and should serve as a sign of confidence DAERA holds in SEAFLAG’s ability to deliver a meaningful programme of benefits.”

In confirming that the programme would open for applications on 2 July, the Chair of SEAFLAG, Alderman Angus Carson said: “I am delighted that our local fisheries communities of Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie now have the opportunity to benefit from EMFF CLLD funding. In the current economic climate, we all need to be resourceful, flexible and be prepared to adapt to change.

“I feel this fund provides an exciting opportunity for us all to continue to strengthen and diversify our economy and society and make a real difference to our local communities through developing and delivering innovative projects. 

“We are looking forward to accepting a wide range of applications coming through following today’s launch and would encourage everyone who feels they may benefit from this much-needed support to attend the afternoon and evening workshops organised for Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie on 25, 26 and 27 June. Or, contact the SEAFLAG office to discuss what support could be provided.”

The Chairman of Newry Mourne and Down District Council Mark Murnin also welcomed the opportunities that the substantial EMFF funding provided for County Down’s fishing communities. He encouraged the continuation of the partnership working that had worked so well through the consultation process associated with the development of the sustainable development strategy. He said: “It is encouraging to see how councils and SEAFLAG members, along with DAERA officials, have worked so well together to develop an innovative programme for delivery which will help raise the profile of the entire South East area of County Down.”