Oceana study reveals EU member states allocated an additional € 4,9 billion in subsidies to fishing sector

Only 1% of state aid subsidies directly benefit the marine environment, 65% could be categorized as environmentally harmful.

Press Release Date: July 8, 2013

Location: Madrid


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

Since 2000 fisheries subsidies in the EU have totaled € 12,9 billion.

Today, Oceana released the results of a six-month study on the expenditure made by EU Member States in subsidies to the fishing sector since 2000. The report shows that they have granted €4,9 billion in the form of state aid to their fishing sectors – most of which has promoted overfishing – in addition to the € 8 billion from the official EU funding mechanisms. Ireland, Spain, Italy and France lead the pack and account for almost 75% percent of the total amount of allocated state aid. Despite the EU’s commitment to transparency, Oceana has also found the information on how tax payer money is spent to be both scarce and unclear.

“Public funding should be used for the public good – while that seems obvious to most of us, it doesn’t seem to register with Member States when it comes to funding the fishing industry. Over the past 13 years only 1% of state aid subsidies have gone to directly benefit the very environment and resource that the industry relies on”, stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe.  “When you consider the poor state of EU fish stocks and the degradation of the marine environment, and look at the fact that 65% of these subsidies are feeding into these very problems, one cannot help but be outraged.”

State aid can range from compensation after natural disasters to aid for building new vessels, security measures against pirates or direct financial assistance. Of the 450 state aid cases analyzed, 65% could be categorized as environmentally harmful or ambiguous subsidies, and less than 1% of the subsidies directly benefit the marine resources.  Worryingly, 34% percent of the funds declared were marked as general aid and allocated to the entire fisheries sector, thus obscuring the objectives and true recipients of one third of the state aid spending and rendering them impossible to categorize.

This Wednesday, a decisive vote on the new financial mechanism for the fisheries sector, the EMFF (European Maritime and Fisheries Fund), will take place in the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament.

“Oceana urges the members of the Committee to stop the vicious cycle of overfishing and overcapitalization of European fleets and end subsidies that fuel overfishing,” added Vanya Vulperhorst, policy advisor at Oceana in Europe.

Learn More: Fact sheet on State Aid, the Hidden Subsidies

Note to editors:  The figure of € 12,9 billion since 2000 includes EU official funding and state aid since 2000, it does not include other subsidies mechanisms such as for access to third countries or tax exemption on fuel subsidies. Data in this study is aggregated from the search engine of the European Commission containing fisheries state aid cases notified by the Member States.