The global COVID-19 pandemic had an immediate and significant financial impact on the sea fishing sector. The collapse of European and domestic fish markets as a consequence of restrictions on movements in line with public health guidance, and further restrictions on the hospitality sectors, made trading virtually impossible.
My colleagues Stephen Farry MP, John Blair MLA and councillors Patrick Brown and Andrew McMurray have continued to engage with and meet representatives of the fishing industry to discuss future opportunities for developing the fishing and seafood sector in Northern Ireland and to identify prospects to further promote our excellent local food product.
The financial support scheme for fishing vessel owners in the Northern Ireland fleet, whose incomes have been significantly affected by the impacts of COVID-19, is welcome. On behalf of the Alliance Party, I support the Department's intervention. My colleagues and I remain hopeful that some outstanding matters, including a permanent commitment to Northern Ireland boats being able to land products at local ports without checks, and the exclusion of Northern Ireland boats from all but two ports in Northern Ireland, can be resolved.
The Alliance Party will continue to engage with the Department on those matters in order to secure a successful outcome for Irish sea fisheries, support our fishing communities and safeguard Northern Ireland fishing for future generations. As outlined in the recent Alliance Party 'Green New Deal' document, we are committed to supporting the fishing industry so that it can prosper and achieve environmental sustainability in the long term and to ensuring that the capacity of fleets is economically viable and does not compromise the marine ecosystems and overexploit marine stocks.
On behalf of the Alliance Party, I support the regulations to support the sector, deliver economic, social and employment benefits and contribute to the availability of our food supplies.