LCQ16: Trawl ban assistance measures

     Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (October 26):


     On June 10 this year, the Finance Committee of this Council approved a one-off commitment of $1,726.8 million to offer assistance to trawler vessel owners and local deckhands affected by the trawl ban. The assistance package comprises making ex-gratia allowance payments, buying out affected inshore trawler vessels, providing assistance, and launching a special training programme. When local deckhands apply for the one-off grant, they have to provide evidence proving that he/she was employed to work as at October 13, 2010 on an affected inshore trawler vessel. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it has started processing applications for ex-gratia payment and the vessel buy-out scheme submitted by inshore trawler vessel owners; if it has, of the number of inshore trawler vessel owners who have so far submitted the required particulars to the authorities to facilitate the processing of their applications; if not, the reasons for that; and

(b) the authorities have made known to all members of the trade that they need to keep the employment records of the affected local deckhands; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Chief Executive put forward in his Policy Address last year that in order to protect our precious marine resources and ecology, trawling in Hong Kong waters should be banned through legislation. The relevant subsidiary legislation was passed on May 18 this year. A new commitment of $1,726.8 million was approved by the Finance Committee (FC) on June 10, 2011 to provide a one-off assistance package to eligible trawler owners, the local deckhands they employed and fish collector owners, as well as to implement other related measures. These include:

(1) making ex-gratia payments to affected trawler owners for permanent loss of fishing grounds arising from a statutory trawl ban;

(2) buying out affected inshore trawler vessels from trawler owners who voluntarily surrender their vessels;

(3) providing one-off assistance to affected local deckhands employed by the affected inshore trawler owners and affected fish collector owners; and

(4) implementing measures to support marine conservation and replenishment of fisheries resources, and launching a special training programme for affected trawler fishermen and local deckhands.

     The relevant assistance measures will appropriately address the impact of the trawl ban on the livelihood of those affected.

     As explained in our paper for the Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene on October 15, 2010, to be eligible for the one-off assistance to local deckhands as mentioned in item (3) above, an applicant must be a local deckhand and must, at the time of application, provide evidence proving that he/she has already been employed to work as at October 13, 2010 on the affected inshore trawler vessels. In the papers for the Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene on March 8, 2011, for the Subcommittee on Fisheries Protection (Specification of Apparatus) (Amendment) Notice 2011 on May 3, 2011, and for the FC on June 10, 2011, we have provided further details on the eligibility criteria and requirements of application, including the requirement that an applicant should as far as practicable provide relevant documentary evidence (e.g. Mandatory Provident Fund records, employment contracts, salary payment records, etc.) to support his/her claim in his/her employment on the trawler vessel.

     My reply to the two parts of the question is as follows:

(a) Since the approval of funding by the FC on June 10, 2011, the Government has been actively making preparation for introducing the initiatives set out in items (1) to (4) above, including setting up an inter-departmental working group (IWG) in August this year to deal with matters of the one-off assistance scheme as mentioned in items (1) to (3) above. The IWG has commenced operation, and will announce the detailed arrangements for application for ex-gratia allowance, buying out of trawlers and one-off assistance for local deckhands employed by the owners of affected inshore trawler vessels, and invite applications around end 2011 as scheduled.

(b) Since the announcement of the plan to ban trawling in Hong Kong waters in October 2010, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has been maintaining close contact with the trade to brief and consult them on the arrangements for implementing the relevant measures (including the one-off assistance package to local deckhands employed by inshore trawler vessel owners). The trade is generally aware of the eligibility criteria and related requirements of application (e.g. the need to keep information relating to the employment of local deckhands for supporting their applications). The IWG will further explain to the trade the details of application requirements and information to be provided, before inviting applications. When processing the applications, the IWG will, taking into consideration the operation of the trade, require the applicants to provide reasonable and acceptable evidence to support their employment status.

Ends/Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:40