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Deadline for filing appeals to the Fishermen Claims Appeal Board extended

     The Fishermen Claims Appeal Board (FCAB) set up for the trawl ban announced today (January 28) that the deadline for filing appeals will be extended till February 28, 2013.

     An inter-departmental working group (IWG) set up for the trawl ban has received a total of 1 117 applications for ex-gratia allowance (EGA). Apart from 14 applications where the notification letters have yet to be issued for various reasons (for example, waiting for applicants to submit supplementary information or documents), the IWG has made decisions on 1 103 cases and issued the notification letters by batches since November 2012. In addition to conveying its decisions and the considerations that had been taken into account, the IWG also stated in the notification letters that appeals may be lodged to the FCAB in writing within 30 days if the applicants are not satisfied with the decisions. So far, the FCAB has received a total of 567 appeals.

     The Chairman of the FCAB, Ms Tennessy Hui, said, "Some fishermen have reflected to the FCAB that the actual follow-up time is less than 30 days because of the Christmas and New Year holidays. The fishermen also wish to have more time to compile the appeals in view of the complexity of the relevant information. Therefore, they request the FCAB to adopt a liberal approach in handling the deadline for filing appeals.

     "Drawing from the experience of other appeal boards, in general, a time limit of 30 days is common and reasonable. An appeal board may consider extending the deadline for filing appeals on the merits of individual cases, subject to the appeal applicants being able to provide reasonable justifications. Notwithstanding this, the FCAB appreciates the long-term impact of the trawl ban on fishermen's livelihoods, and notes the unique tradition of the fishing community whereby most fisherfolk would return to and stay in Hong Kong around the Lunar New Year period, during which time they could handle the filing of appeals in person. As such, the FCAB has decided that if an appeal applicant is unable to file his/her appeal within the 30-day deadline, the Board would still accept his/her appeal application on or before February 28, 2013. For those who have not received the notification letters, the FCAB would keep in view future development, and handle this separately," Ms Hui said.

     "Those who wish to file appeals should put forward their applications as soon as possible. As the FCAB has already adopted a liberal approach in handling the deadline for filing appeals, the FCAB will in general not accept appeal applications submitted after February 28, 2013 (for those who have not yet received the notification letters, the FCAB will handle this separately). In other words, only in exceptional circumstances will the FCAB exercise discretion in considering an appeal application submitted after the extended deadline. For an appeal application lodged after February 28, 2013, it would be incumbent upon the appeal applicant to satisfy the FCAB that he/she has made due diligence in making the appeals, and the delay is not due to his/her own fault and/or such delay is attributable to reasons beyond his/her control," she said.

     "As the FCAB has responsibility to handle the 567 appeals already received first, those who file their appeal applications between January 28 and February 28 should understand that it is likely that their appeals may be heard later."

     The FCAB will have its meeting on January 31, 2013 to discuss the way forward, including formulating a schedule for hearing the aforementioned 567 appeals. Having regard to the scheduled hearing sessions, appellants and respondents will be invited by batches to submit the relevant information, including their statements, evidence and responses, in accordance with the work-flow.

     The ban of trawling in Hong Kong waters, under statute, came into operation on December 31, 2012. Under a one-off assistance package approved by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council on June 10, 2011, an EGA is payable to eligible trawler owners affected by the trawl ban. An IWG has been set up by the Government to handle matters relating to applications received from parties affected by the trawl ban. Applicants who are not satisfied with the decisions of the IWG on the aforementioned EGA may lodge appeals to the FCAB in writing within 30 days after receiving the notification letters. The FCAB comprises one non-official Chairman and four non-official members. According to its terms of reference, the FCAB will determine whether the IWG's decisions comply with government policy and are fair and reasonable (in the public law sense) to the applicants.

     The secretariat of the FCAB is located at the Food and Health Bureau, 17/F, East Wing, Central Government Offices, 2 Tim Mei Avenue, Tamar, Hong Kong.

Ends/Monday, January 28, 2013
Issued at HKT 20:04


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