Oceana calls upon the United Nations to eliminate subsidies to bottom trawling fleets

Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Projects and Research for the international marine organisation, is presenting Oceana’s proposals that subsidies should only be granted to artisanal and shallow-water fishing fleets.

Press Release Date: April 6, 2011

Location: Madrid


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

Oceana, the leading international organisation dedicated exclusively to the protection and recovery of the seas, is participating on 26 and 27 April in a meeting of experts in Geneva on fishing subsidies and sustainable fisheries management, convened by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on Fisheries.

The meeting, which is being held in Geneva, the UNEP’s regional headquarters in Europe, will be attended by Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Projects and Research for Oceana, who will be calling for the elimination of subsidies to fishing fleets that are highly destructive to marine resources and ecosystems, such as bottom trawler fleets which, in Europe, comprise some 15,000 vessels. Aguilar will be maintaining that the subsidies granted by the European Union should be aimed at supporting selective fishing, such as those agreed by Oceana last week at its meeting in Hondarribia with representatives from the shallow-water fishing fleet in the Cantabrian Sea, which encompasses some 10,000 fishermen and uses fishing techniques that respect the marine environment.

It is estimated that each year between 14,000 and 20,000 million dollars are invested around the world in fishing subsidies (between 11,827 and 16,896 million euros), the United States, Japan, China and the European Union being the countries that direct the largest budgets towards subsidising their fleets Between 2000 and 2006, the last European Union funds in support of fishing, known as the FIFG funds, represented an investment of 3,700 million euros. These funds have served to keep the most destructive fleets in operation and increase overfishing instead of supporting sustainable fishing. In the previous period, 1994-1999, the vast majority of these funds (2,700 million ecus) were directed at increasing the fishing capacity of fleets, obtaining new fishing agreements, subsidising the fuel used by fishing boats and enabling the expansion of destructive fishing techniques.

Oceana proposes that the United Nations Environment Programme creates a protocol that indicates which kinds of subsidies are acceptable and which run counter to international agreements on destructive fishing.

“We hope that the new Government of Spain, which is the biggest fishing country in the EU, will influence the European Commission to change the direction of its decisions on subsidies” says Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana in Europe. And that instead of increasing the capacity of the destructive fishing techniques of industrial fleets, which has been the case up until now, the sustainable fishing activities carried out by shallow-water and artisanal fleets all over Europe will be protected”, adds Pastor. 

Although Oceana acknowledges that the changes in the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) are significant, it believes that the EU policy on subsidies must demonstrate that its intentions towards sustainable fisheries are not just empty promises.