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June 14, 2013

Fisheries subsidies: What will Member States spend the money on?

© OCEANA / Juan Cuetos


At this very moment, EU Member States are developing their six-year plans on how they will be using fisheries subsidies (mostly funded by taxpayer money) they will be receiving once the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is finalized.

As part of the design process of these Operational Programmes, several countries (though, unfortunately, not all of them) opened public consultations, and accepted submissions from a wide variety of stakeholders. Member States provide an analysis of their long term goals for the fishing sector and use these objectives to pick and choose from the measures that are available under the new fisheries fund. These measures range from investment in aquaculture and environmental protection to health and safety measures on board ships.

In the end, they will decide what will be funded, and what won’t be, but we wanted them to hear our voice. As Oceana has long been campaigning to end the dissemination of harmful subsidies, we have provided our feedback to several Member States – most recently to France.

We believe that funding should go towards the establishment of Marine Protected Areas, as well as the implementation of control and data collection measures. The lack of scientific data is a major factor in the paralysis of the European decision-making process on fisheries issues. Solid scientific information is only available for 45% of the commercial fish stocks that the EU targets. Without sound knowledge of the stocks’ condition, there can be no long-term environmental, economic and social sustainability. Member States should invest in measures that favour public services and ecosystems restoration, which is something that has not been done much in the past. Well-managed Marine Protected Areas are a good example of an action that is beneficial not just to the environment, but also to the fishing industry and coastal communities.

It is crucial that the Common Fisheries Policy’s future financial mechanism does not contribute to increase or maintain overcapacity and overfishing.  We want Member States to stop investing in measures that harm the environment and increase the capacity of the European fleet. For decades, public money has been spent in an inefficient, badly targeted and sometimes even counter-productive manner, without addressing the fishing sector’s structural problems. Direct investments into fleets such as new engines, or investments to modernize or built new boats should therefore not be used in the 2014 – 2020 funding period.

The new EMFF – which is currently being negotiated – and the Member State’s Operational Programmes provide a crucial opportunity to make measurable improvements to the European fisheries sector. The funding mechanism that accompanies the CFP should help to end overfishing by restoring fish stocks to sustainable levels and reduce the damage done to marine ecosystems. It is the only way of ensuring a future both for the fish and the communities who depend on them.