Commission Fisheries subsidies proposaltakes positive steps but problematic loopholes remain

Oceana urges EU Member States to remove all capacity enhancing subsidies from financing regulation.

Press Release Date: December 2, 2011

Location: Madrid


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Today, the European Commission presented its proposal for the new subsidies regulation of the European fisheries sector, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which will cover subsidies from 2014 to 2020. Oceana recognizes the positive steps that the Commission has taken by removing the worst fleet capacity enhancing subsidies, such as those used for vessel modernization, but is concerned that other subsidies that allow capacity increase are still allowed. Oceana is calling on EU Member States to remove all such subsidies from the EMFF.

The EFF – the financial regulation that is currently in effect (until 2014) – was created with the goal of reducing overcapacity in the Europe’s fishing fleet, but billions of euros have been spent without significantly reducing capacity.

Europe’s oversized fleet – estimated to be two to three times too big – has been built and maintained with enormous amounts of subsidies,” said Anne Schroeer, economist at Oceana Europe. “The Commission proposal has thankfully removed some subsidies that allow further fleet growth, like those dedicated to modernization – they seem to have understood that an oversized fleet leads to fishermen taking losses, and disadvantages consumers and the environment.”

One of the major flaws in the EFF has been its failure to adequately monitor spending. In the past Oceana has reported cases where EU financial support was used by operators that were engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated activities (IUU). The Commission’s proposal rightly attempts to tackle this problem – one that must be overcome for the EMFF to be more effective than the EFF – by providing more funding for control measures and data collection. Similarly the fact that compliance with CFP rules will have a bearing on fund availability is a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the Commission’s EMFF proposal does not go far enough to close some of the loopholes that were problematic in the previous financial mechanism.

“Subsidies for port improvements and marketing campaigns, which are included in the Commission’s EMFF proposal, typically reduce costs for fishing companies by artificially increasing profits without requiring best practices or a sustainability approach,” added Maria Jose Cornax, Fisheries Campaign coordinator at Oceana Europe. Subsidies that reduce the costs of fishing operations allow fishermen to fish further out and longer, putting unnecessary strain on already overfished stocks”.

In a recent report, Oceana revealed that in 2009 the fisheries sector had 3.3 billion euro at its disposal and in 13 EU countries the subsidies were higher than the value of landed catches. Despite this, many of the large fleets still saw economic losses. Shockingly the most environmentally destructive fishing methods are often the most subsidized as they are the most fuel intensive. Yet little financial support has gone to the conservation of the marine environment or to small scale fisheries. The Commission’s proposal does a better job of linking funding with environmental objectives by setting aside money to fund Marine Protected Areas and Natura 2000 conservation projects – a much needed step towards protecting the oceans.

Read the Report: The European Union and Fishing Subsidies