Oceana: Fisheries ministers reject reform, vote to continue subsidies that fuel overfishing

Vote hinders ambitious goals of Common Fisheries Policy reform.

Press Release Date: October 24, 2012

Location: Madrid


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

Last night the European Council of fisheries ministers reached an agreement on the partial general approach for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). This new funding mechanism, which will replace the current European Fisheries Fund in 2014, will seal the future of the European fishing sector until 2020. Oceana is appalled by the outcome and by the reckless attitude of the Member States, who, by agreeing to this text, have put at risk both the future of the fisheries industry and the coastal communities that depend on it.

The dire economic state of European fisheries has turned the majority of fisheries ministers from decision makers into fundraisers, aiming at getting their hands on as many subsidy schemes as possible, commented Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “Instead of realising that the direct fleet subsidies of the current financial mechanism have been a failure, they cling to old habits, the very same that have led to the economic, social and environmental crisis of fisheries.”

The politically charged discussions started Monday in a stand-off between Member States trying to water down the Commission’s proposal as much as possible and those holding onto the much needed reform set out by the Commission. The former have won as the partial general approach not only supports subsidies that fuel overfishing, such as funding to replace engines on board a fishing vessel, but also puts measures back on the table, such as the scrapping of boats and temporary cessation, that had been excluded by the Commission because they were misused by Member States.

”Reintroducing these subsidies, which have been proven to be ineffective, will only succeed in wasting taxpayer money again and again and increasing the pressure on fish stocks” added Vanya Vulperhorst, Policy advisor at Oceana Europe. “This stubborn refusal to move away from the status quo is a disgrace that brings into question the need to waste more time reforming the Common Fisheries Policy.”

European subsidies should be spent on measures that ensure that marine resources are stable, productive and healthy, by prioritising investment in public services and ecosystem restoration. Subsidies should in particular be allocated to the creation of more marine protected areas, to the proper enforcement of fisheries management, and to guaranteeing data collection and increasing the coverage of scientific assessments to all commercially exploited species. Sustainable fishing can only be achieved through compliance with effective fisheries management programmes, by preventing illegal fishing and by eliminating the subsidies that harm the environment, distort trade or undermine management efforts and lead to overfishing.

Learn more: The European Union and Subsidies