Oceana to EU Parliament: fuel subsidies’ increase not a long term solution, will damage fish stocks

Harmful subsidies to the fishing sector are not a long-term solution and have been shown to increase overfishing while offering only a marginal increase in profit.

Press Release Date: May 9, 2011

Location: Madrid


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

In tonight’s plenary debate of the European Parliament MEPs will discuss the rising oil price in the European fisheries sector. Several political groups have asked to increase the level of ‘de minims’ subsidies from 30.000 per firm to 60.000 euro for a three year term. These subsidies are aimed at reducing the cost of fishing operations and grant cash that can be used to finance fuel expenses. Oceana, the international marine conservation organization, strongly condemns any attempt to increase ‘de minimis’ funding, as these subsidies make fuel cheaper, thereby distorting markets and supporting uneconomic activities. A raise in fuel subsidies would also provide a major incentive to overfishing and other destructive fishing practices.

Tax payers money should not be used to fund the over-exploitation of marine resources,” stated Anne Schroeer, Baltic Sea Project manager at Oceana. “An increase in de minimis’ subsidies is not a long term solution for the current economic pressure on the fisheries sector, and will instead lead to overfishing and the further deterioration of the state of European fish stocks.”

Increasing ‘de minimis’ state funding will not succeed in restructuring and adapting the European fisheries fleet to the current economic situation. Indeed, the short-termism displayed by some members of the European Parliament will only enhance the vicious cycle of declining stocks and overcapacity that has trapped the European fisheries sector. Internationally, an increase in ‘de minimis’ would discredit the European Union at the WTO negotiations, where there is a common understanding of the global crisis of overfishing and commitment to reduce harmful subsidies among participants of the WTO negotiation. Fuel subsidies also contradict the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol, the EU 2020 strategy and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

All subsidies to the sector should support moves towards sustainable fisheries, such as funding for less environmentally harmful and less fuel consuming gear. ‘De minimis’ will simply not achieve this.” added Vanya Vulperhorst, Policy Advisor at Oceana Brussels. “Research has shown that subsidies that reduce fishing costs lead to a marginal increase in profit, but increase participation and fishing effort.”

Oceana urges the Parliament to focus on the long term, and to refrain from supporting the financial strengthening of ‘de minimis’ state aid. The European Commission stressed in the Green Paper on the Common Fisheries Policy reform that only a few EU fleets are profitable with no public support, and that most of Europe’s fishing fleets are either incurring losses or running low profits.

Learn more: Subsidies