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Penguin News Update.

Friday, March 31st 2006 - 21:00 UTC
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Message to PM: ?keep us British'; Industry dismayed as Loligo fees rise again; Packages considered for Camp assistance; Tourism decision in May.

Message to PM: ?keep us British'

A CONTINGENT from the Falklands Commonwealth Games team had an opportunity to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Melbourne on Monday. Mr Blair's primary mission was to greet the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh teams in the Games Village, but it was arranged through the British Consulate that he would spend a few minutes chatting with the Falklands team. Shooting manager Ron Betts, clay target competitor Saul Pitaluga and rifle shooter Ken Aldridge shook hands with the Prime Minister and his wife. Chef de MissionPatrick Watts, after initially answering questions from Mr Blair about the team's performance in Melbourne, took the opportunity, on behalf of the Falklands population, to thank the Prime Minister and British Government, "...for their continued support for the Falklands, which is much appreciated." Patrick ended by saying, "Please keep the Falklands British." Mr Blair listened intently to the message. Patrick later reported that Mrs. Blair chatted to the team members, "...and said how nice it was to always see the Falklands in attendance at the Labour Party Conferences." Picture: Patrick Watts (right) thanks the Prime Minister and Mrs. Blair for Britain's continued support for the Falklands.

Industry dismayed as Loligo fees rise again

COUNCILLORS have approved a 30% increase in licence fees for the second loligo squid season which should result in additional government revenue of £900,000. The decision by Standing Finance Committee (SFC) followed a recommendation from Executive Council to return to the 10% "fee to company revenue ratio" for government licensing which is already levied for illex and finfish. The current ratio is approximately 5.7%. The 10% ratio will not take effect immediately. The government will initially increase the ratio by 2.5% and then is likely to further increase fees next year. At a meeting of the Fisheries Committee held earlier this month, industry members urged the government to bear in mind the effect the rise in fuel costs has had on fishing companies before deciding on whether to increase loligo licence fees. Calculations by Imperial College - the government's resource economics advisors - suggest that catches in the second season 2006 will be higher than those experienced in the second season 2005. In a paper presented to Executive Council, Director of Fisheries, John Barton, recommended the approval of an option from Imperial College for a 20% increase in licence fees from 2005. However, instead Executive Council recommended to SFC that an option in line with the government's overall policy to reach a fee/revenue ratio of 10% be accepted. This represents a 30% increase in fees from last year. In 2005, members of the loligo fishing industry expressed their dismay at a 20% increase in fees which came on top of a 10% increase in 2004 and they are, therefore, disappointed with yesterday's decision. A spokesperson for the Loligo Producers Group, which consists of companies Argos, Beauchene Fishing, Fortuna, RBC, Seaview, Seafish and Southern Cross, commented, "Clearly the government must take a fair percentage of the value of the fishery, and the licence fee to catch value ratio is an internationally recognised method for calculating licence fees. It is, however, relevant for foreign flagged fleets, from which governments would receive no additional benefits such as corporation tax. Most governments do not actually charge licence fees to their own fleets. "By doing this, the governments are choosing to ignore the fact that some of the fleet, loligo for example, is locally registered and pay taxes as well as licence fees." The spokesperson said the group believes that if the corporation tax they pay is taken into account, "...the current fee percentage level is already being met without any increase." Costly culverts Also at SFC on Thursday, £150,000 was approved from the current budget to fund culvert replacement on Camp roads. This scheme, which will replace a large number of culverts that have badly eroded, is expected to cost the government approximately £650,000 over the next three years. SFC also approved the payment of £24,716.48 to Island Shipping Limited (ISL) for work carried out in dry dock last year. The contract between the government (FIG) and ISL requires FIG to meet repair costs in excess of £20,000 per annum. Councillor Janet Robertson asked who paid for repairs necessary due to the fault of ISL; the Chief Executive confirmed that ISL's insurance should cover such repairs. Thursday's meeting of SFC marked the beginning of councillors' two days of initial 2006/07 budget procedures.

Packages considered for Camp asístanse

THE government says it is giving careful consideration to a package of measures to help maintain "a well populated and sustainable community" in Camp. Developed by councillors and officials during two recent workshops, Gilbert House yesterday announced that some measures are designed to provide "a very quick boost" whilst others will take longer to introduce, "...but all are aimed at securing long term sustainability." "Executive Council has approved a list of possible measures which, among other things, address transport, fuel and mortgages which, if approved as part of the budget, will benefit everyone living and working in Camp. The importance of continuing to implement the plan for agriculture developed by the Agriculture Department will be a central theme of assistance to farming businesses." Councillor Ian Hansen commented: "Camp is certainly not in meltdown but we have listened to the problems which are being experienced." He said councillors and officials have come up with a package of assistance but gave no specifics, saying to do so would be "premature." He added, "I'm confident that there will be something in it for everyone." That said, Councillor Hansen commented, "...there will be no bags of cash left at farm gates. "It's no good just overcoming perceived problems now, unless we're able to improve the outlook for the future. We also have to examine our ability to provide financial assistance alongside other budget pressures but I'm optimistic that we'll be able to announce a package of benefits as FIG's budget for next year becomes clearer."

Tourism decision in May

A DECISION on whether the Director of Tourism should be permitted to work out of the Islands is expected to be made in May. Upset within the tourism industry at a rumoured proposal to allow the Director of Tourism to spend up to six months abroad was reported in Penguin Newslast week. The Directors of the Falkland Islands Tourist Board met on Wednesday and later confirmed it was proposed that a paper be prepared, "...regarding the possibility of the present Director of Tourism spending a period of time away from the Islands for the purpose of further promotion of the Falklands." The Board will next meet on the morning of May 5, " fully consider the paper." There will be a members meeting the same afternoon.

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