The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is the main fund for the European Union's maritime and fisheries policies for 2014-2020. It is one of five European Structural and Investment Funds intended to complement each other in order to deliver growth and jobs based recovery in the EU.

The scheme is intended to help fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing, support coastal communities in diversifying their economies, finance projects that create new jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts and make it easier for applicants to access financing.

The EMFF replaces the former European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and has a €6.4bn budget, with additional co-funding provided by Member States who administer the fund locally. It is administered in England by the Marine Management Organisation on behalf of Defra and was opened for applications in January 2016 on a phased basis.

The EMFF: 2014 - 2020

The UK's Operational Programme incorporates the 'Union Priorities' as defined in the EMFF Regulation, aiming to:

  1. support adaption to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform to ensure a sustainable and innovative fishing sector (28%)
  2. support innovation to help expand aquaculture whilst improving the environmental impact of the sector (8%)
  3. support the implementation of the control, inspection and enforcement system of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), in addition to data collection and management (40%)
  4. support community-led local development strategies to help fisheries and aquaculture-dependent communities to diversify their economies and bring added value to their fishing activities (6%)
  5. foster marketing and production in the sector (11%)
  6. implement the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) and support an effective marine planning process (3%)
  7. there is an additional budget of €12,528,452 (4%) for technical assistance to ensure the efficient administration of the EU funding

The budget itself has been proportionately allocated based on country size. The UK has been awarded €243 million (increasing to a total budget for the UK of almost €310 million following the national co-funding contribution). The UK's allocation is then further subdivided between England (€92.1 million), Scotland (€107.7 million), Northern Ireland (€23.5 million) and Wales (€19.7 million).

Applications for funding

In the UK, funding will be provided on a phased basis with all of the remaining parts of the scheme opened by the end of 2016. At present there is currently €33 million available in Phase 1. However, the full scheme guidance is already available so that applicants may consider how to apply for funding that is opened later in the scheme.

Phase 1 provides for 6 different grant areas including projects for fishing vessel energy improvements, investment on board fishing vessels, improvements to shore-based facilities, partnerships and information sharing support, projects relating to the marine environment and inland fishing and, finally, support for aquaculture, processing and marketing.

The application process will vary dependent on the amount of funding requested, with applications over £100,000 requiring a panel review involving submission deadlines. However, for projects requesting funding under this limit, applications can be made any time and are assessed on a regular basis.

Ultimately a project must be in line with the overall aims of the EMFF to be considered for funding and each activity should be reviewed against the lists published on the MMO website (for the selection criteria click here).

Those operating within the fisheries, inland waters, aquaculture and maritime sectors are encouraged to take full advantage of the available funding to support growth in the industry and ensure continued, sustainable development.

This article, authored by barrister Nicola Canty from the Firm's Marine Regulatory team, has been featured in the April edition of Marine and Maritime Gazette.