The marine environmental organisation has concerns about the proposal for subsidies package to tackle the fuel crisis in the fisheries sector.
Oceana welcomes the decision of the European commission not to include the increase of “de minimis aid” up to 100.000 Euros per company in a package of subsidies provided to the fisheries sector but is alarmed at other harmful subsidies which could be introduced.
Today, the European commission presented a proposal with various measures to tackle the fuel crisis in the fisheries sector, which is expected to be agreed by Ministers on 15 July.
Oceana economist Anne Schroeer comments: “De minimis subsidies are mostly provided as fuel subsidies – they are a classical example of a bad and short-sighted policy measure. Fuel prices keep on rising and fish stocks are depleted – fuel subsidies and other operational subsidies do nothing to treat the underlying problem of chronic overcapacity of the European Union fleet and instead directly contribute to further overfishing.”
However, Oceana is alarmed at the proposals for partial decommissioning schemes for fishing vessels where there is the possibility to reallocate 25 % of the fishing capacity “permanently withdrawn” to new vessels. This would discretely reintroduce so-called harmful subsidies for vessel construction, which were rightly phased out during the Common Fisheries Policy reform in 2002.
Oceana is also disappointed that the opportunity was not taken to propose measures to provide incentives for fishermen who wish to move away from environmentally damaging types of fishing, which are often those which are the most fuel intensive, such as trawling.
Measures like the modernisation of motors and the change to the use of less fuel intensive motors run the risk of increasing a vessel’s ability to catch fish. Increasing fuel efficiency with public aid for fuel intensive fisheries can lead to increased catch abilities, to overfishing and further environmental destruction and should be avoided. Oceana urges Ministers, when considering these proposals, to ensure that all measures are tied to programmes promoting capacity reduction and a change to more selective and less environmentally damaging fishing gear.
“A large amount of money has been spent on the fisheries sector over the past few years and yet overcapacity and overfishing persist, the condition of the marine environment continues to deteriorate and the fisheries sector is still in crisis. And now, as well as this package, the Commission is suggesting there the potential for yet another 600 million euros to be made available from public sources. Ministers must take responsible decisions to ensure that harmful subsidies that contribute to overfishing, like fuel subsidies, are excluded and this money is spent wisely. Expenditure should focus on drastically reducing European fleet capacity, supporting moves towards a smaller, more environmentally friendly fishing fleet and not continuing to finance overfishint” concludes Xavier Pastor, Oceana’s Executive Director in Europe.