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June 24, 2013

An attempt to bypass democratic reform of fisheries subsidies

© OCEANA / MJ Cornax - Shipyard in Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, Italy. Catamaran Oceana Ranger Mediterranean Expedition. May 2007.


As the negotiations on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) reach a crucial point in the European Parliament, there are reports that Alain Cadec, the French Member of Parliament in charge of the file, is seeking an agreement directly with the Member States, and thus trying to bypass the opportunity for a detailed discussion of the whole Parliament on this important issue.

Some of the compromise amendments currently being discussed in the Committee on Fisheries are of great concern to Oceana. One of them in particular proposes to reintroduce subsidies for vessel construction; this would represent a major step backwards, as these subsidies had been phased out after the last reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 2002. These types of subsidies have clearly acted as incentives to overfish by increasing the European fleet’s capacity, and completely failed in addressing the fishing sector’s structural problems. The proposed amendment suggests making this measure available to vessels which are over 35 years old. Most of these boats currently operate in the Mediterranean, where 88% of the assessed stocks are currently overfished. Enabling funding to be granted for building new boats in an area where the stocks are in such a dire state is clearly an extremely risky idea.

Since the Lisbon treaty entered into force in December 2009, the European Parliament has played an increased role in the EU legislative process; it can now co-legislate on equal footing with the Council on a vast majority of areas, including those linked to fisheries.  On an issue as vital as the whole funding for the fisheries sector for the next 6 years, it is crucial to have a real discussion in the European parliament, rather than reducing its role to a yes or no vote on a text negotiated between the Council and Mr. Cadec.

Let’s not forget either that the EU recommitted to eliminating subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing both at the 2002 World Summit of Sustainable Development and at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), as well as during the WTO Doha Round negotiations. This means that reintroducing subsidies to build new vessels would not only seriously harm the marine environment, but also undermine commitments made by the EU at the international level.

European taxpayers’ money has been spent in inefficient and badly-targeted ways for decades, with subsidies failing to remedy to the crisis of the fisheries sector or to restore the fish stocks. The reform which is being shaped at this very moment is a crucial opportunity to put an end to this waste of public resources and ensure a viable future for our marine resources and fisheries sector. In order to achieve this, the full involvement of the only elected institution of the European Union is of the highest importance.

To make sure that the EMFF file gets the attention it deserves, Oceana has therefore urged the Members of the European Parliament to take action in this letter.