I appreciate the comments made by Members in response to the issues that I have brought to their attention today. A couple of questions were raised about additional funding for COVID-19. The UK-wide Seafood Response Fund was a further bonus for the local fleet of potters and trawlers. That covered support towards fishing vessels' fixed costs during the first quarter of 2020-21. In total, 144 Northern Ireland fishing vessel owners secured £1·212 million in financial assistance. The scheme was administered across the UK by the Marine Management Organisation. My officials are considering a submission from the Northern Ireland Fishermen's Federation for further COVID-19 support for the period from April to June 2021.
I published a final report on the fishing and seafood development programme on 5 May 2021. It was a strategic review of the opportunities for developing the sea fishing and seafood sectors in Northern Ireland as a whole, including the potential role of new public investment in infrastructure. The report focuses on recommendations on capital investment at the main fishery harbours and highlights a number of challenges and opportunities for the wider industry that could be addressed through a future fisheries financial support scheme.
The report marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the fishing industry here. It highlights the considerable investment that is required to help the industry to adapt to the challenges that it faces and to grasp the opportunities presented following the UK's exit from the European Union. Northern Ireland needs to build a stronger, more resilient fishing and seafood industry that can adapt to change. Of course, that will not be easy, but I hope that, with government and industry working together, we can build new infrastructure, become more prosperous, improve the marine environment and enhance our reputation as suppliers of quality sustainable seafood.
My Department is finalising the business case to inform decisions about procuring the detailed environmental and technical studies that will be needed to take the harbour proposals forward. I thank all Members who commented.
Question put and agreed to. Resolved:
That the Sea Fish Industry (Coronavirus) (Fixed Costs) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 be affirmed.