Oceana blasts member states lack of political will to tackle problem of EU fishing fleet overcapacity

Recent Commission Report Reveals Reality of EU Overcapacity and Unveils Member State Unwillingness to Cooperate with Requirements.

Press Release Date: June 27, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

True CFP reform will fail if economic interests continue to be placed ahead of sustainability

Oceana is deeply concerned by Member States’ lack of political will and true commitment to achieve a sustainable balance between fleet capacity and fishing resources. This is evidenced by a European Commission report published last week, which reveals that overcapacity in European fishing fleets remains a major problem in European waters. The report not only shines a light on the poor commitment of Member States to provide relevant data and put in place effective capacity reduction plans, but also underscores how public funding, in the form of subsidies made available for decommissioning fishing vessels, failed to make a real dent in fleet overcapacity.

“Member States’ failure to significantly reduce their number of vessels in 2009, is but another example of the repeated and ill-suited attempts by the EU to target overcapacity as these reductions are often compensated by improvements in fishing technology that substantially increases the efficiency of the fishing vessel,” says Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “The truth is that rather old and inefficient fishing vessels are scrapped instead of the ones actually using destructive gear or targeting already overfished stocks. Member states’ preference for such measures shows the lack of overarching environmental objectives and a focus on short-term solutions.”

Around 330 million euro from the European Fisheries Fund were set aside in 2009 to adapt the Community fishing fleet to the available resources using measures such as decommissioning, scrapping or reassigning vessels or implementing the temporary cessation of fishing activities. However, despite this enormous amount of money, the EU’s fleet was only reduced by 2 to 3% that year. This calls into question the way public money was provided and used by Member States for capacity reduction, and underlines the urgency for the future financing tool to take an approach based on long term environmental sustainability focused approach as its guiding principle.

Unfortunately, recent calls for change have been undermined by a joint declaration signed by several Member States, who defied the call of Commissioner Damanaki to exclude decommissioning measures from the future financing tool. France, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Belgium appealed to the European Commission to continue this public funding, despite evidence of current misuse by Member States, resulting in a minimal impact on reducing fleet capacity. Oceana is concerned that Member States employ decommissioning measures solely with an economic objective. However, if these funds are to actually scrap vessels that practice destructive fishing, such measures could be effective.

Meanwhile, the Commission report also reveals that 11 member states did not provide plans for improvement in fleet management systems or gave an overall opinion on whether their fleet was in balance with its fishing opportunity or not. Among these member states are large recipients of EFF funding like Poland or some of the advocates for continuation of the decommissioning measures, like France, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland. Oceana is gravely worried by this lack of compliance of member states, especially considering that collect data is essential for informed decision making and the gathering stakeholder and public support and understanding. The recent backsliding performed by Member States will only enhance the vicious circle the fishing sector is trapped in.

“In order to ensure that coastal communities benefit economically from healthy stocks that are not overfished, a fundamental change in the way that EU spending is employed is required. Failing to tackle overcapacity would severely hamper any attempts achieve the objective of a healthy marine environment and fishing industry,” concluded Anne Schroeer, Oceana Baltic Sea Project Manager. “The Commission and Member States cannot miss the opportunity for real and effective change that the CFP reform is providing them with.”  

Learn More: Subsidies 

Learn More: European Commission Report, Joint Declaration