New Oceana report reveals true amount of EU fishing sector subsidies to be €3.3 billion

13 Member States Receive More in Taxpayer Funded Subsidies than Total Value of Fish Landings.

Press Release Date: September 13, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana is calling for an immediate stop of all capacity enhancing fishing subsidies.

Today, Oceana published a report on the true amount of subsidies provided to the fishing sector by the European Union (EU) and its Member States. The international marine conservation organization reveals that EU fisheries subsidies are more than three times greater than the number generally provided by the Commission, which only takes into account payments from the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), and not those given to the sector by individual Member States. In 2009, subsidies to the fishing sector totalled € 3.3 billion, and in 13 Member States, the amount they were given in subsidies was higher than the total value of their fish landings.

Finland and Germany’s fishing sector for example, received respectively three and 1.5 times more in subsidies than the value of their landed catch. The fishing sectors of Spain, France, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Italy received the most fishing subsidies, totalling of € 1.9 billion.

“The fisheries sector, which often fails to generate profit, owes its life to generous subsidies schemes,” says Anne Schroeer, Baltic Sea Project manager at Oceana Europe. “The EU fishing industry’s addiction to European taxpayer funded subsidies has led to overfishing, fleet overcapitalization, reduced economic efficiency in the sector and the failure to obtain the potential economic benefits from the resource.”

Oceana is gravely concerned by the extent to which the EU continues to provide capacity enhancing subsidies. Even though, subsidies that directly incentivize expansion of the fishing fleet such as vessel construction, modernization, and the export of fishing vessels, are not allowed under the EFF, there are a number of loopholes and exceptions. Capacity enhancing and therefore harmful subsidies that are still permitted include fuel subsidies, funding for replacing engines, marketing and promotional campaigns, and the construction of fishing ports and cold stores.

Overfishing of European waters, growing demand for fish in the EU and a large fish processing sector has promoted the major expansion of European fleets both in size and in range – combined with government funding that has produced massive overcapacity in the European fishing fleet, which is estimated to be two to three times greater than what is needed to fish sustainably. EU fleets are found in major parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans through arrangements with third-party countries. Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing is a widespread problem among European flagged and owned fleets.

Right now, the EU is revising the Common Fisheries Policy and in November, a draft for a new financial instrument will follow. Given the enormous inefficiency of the fishing industry, a drastic change is needed.

“Capacity enhancing fishing subsidies need to be stopped. They worsen overcapacity and overfishing by helping to finance a dangerous and inequitable race for the last fish,” added Maria Jose Cornax, Fisheries Campaign coordinator at Oceana Europe. “We do however need policies that put the marine environment at their core, and funding should be allocated to more Marine Protected Areas, proper enforcement of fisheries management, and the financing of scientific assessments.”

Many European fleets are only able to operate with the support of government subsidies. A recent economic analysis by the European Commission revealed that despite these funds, 30 to 40 per cent of the fishing segment it assessed suffered losses each year from 2002 to 2008. Shockingly the most environmentally destructive fishing methods are often the most subsided, as these vessels are often fuel intensive.

Fuel subsidies not only support overfishing by directly reducing the costs for the fishing operation, but make it possible to fish further and longer than would be possible otherwise. Oceana’s review and assessment of fuel tax programs revealed an estimated €1.4 billion in subsidies for the fishing sector. Furthermore, in 2009, total subsidies to the European fishing sector were equivalent to 50 per cent of the value of the total fish catch by the EU in that same year (€6.6 billion).

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