European taxpayers pay for their fish several times over. They pay for the management of fish stocks, the collection of scientific data, the monitoring, surveillance and control of fishing activities. They pay around 1.9 billion Euro every year in European and national subsidies to the fishing sector and related sectors. And they pay for their fish at the fishmonger’s counter.

European taxpayers pay for their fish several times over. They pay for the management of fish stocks, the collection of scientific data, the monitoring, surveillance and control of fishing activities. They pay around 1.9 billion Euro every year in European and national subsidies to the fishing sector and related sectors. And they pay for their fish at the fishmonger’s counter.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia estimated in 2006 that at the global level, fisheries subsidies amount to 30-34 billion USD annually – which represents more than a third of the total value of landings, which the same researchers estimated at 80 billion USD annually.

Fisheries subsidies have been vilified for supporting overfishing, destructive fishing practices, and the erosion of coastal communities and small scale fishing. A conservative estimate by the World Bank in 2008 indicated that economic losses in global fisheries amount to up to 50 billion USD per year. The large amount of subsidies given to the fishing industry is insufficient to cover such losses, and in fact subsidies have been shown to actually contribute to these losses by fuelling fleet overcapacity, which in turn causes overfishing and low economic profitability for the fishing sector.

Europe does not perform well in this global context. Several reports from the European Court of Auditors have condemned the implementation of European funding programmes targeting fisheries. The most recent report of the Court of Auditors, published in December 2011, found that billions of Euros of the European Fisheries Fund have been misused, actually contributing to an increase in fishing capacity and to the further depletion of fish stocks, rather than contributing to achieving a balance between fishing capacity and available fish resources.

The current EU funding instrument for fisheries (the European Fisheries Fund, or EFF) will end in 2013. The European Commission has published a legislative proposal to replace this instrument with a new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which should cover the period 2014-2020.

Seas At Risk is working towards an EMFF which ensures that public funds are only used to finance activities which are in the public interest. Thus, fleet-related subsidies must stop contributing to maintaining and even increasing fleet overcapacity. Funds should be made conditional on Member States’ adequate assessment and reporting of their fleet capacity, as well as on their success in achieving a balance between fleet capacity and available fishing opportunities. In addition, Seas At Risk is demanding a shift from individual measures (which only benefit a few operators) to measures of collective interest, such as those related to monitoring, data collection, control and enforcement.

Seas At Risk also wants to see an end to the environmentally harmful fuel subsidies for fishing activities, both directly through fuel subsidies and indirectly through fuel tax exemption. Finally, any funding must be conditional on the Member

States’ and operators’ compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Joint NGO priorities for the future EMFF
Joint NGO discussion paper: "Reforming EU Fisheries Subsidies"
Joint NGO initial reaction to EMFF proposal
Joint NGO press release on Court of Auditors' report 2011
European Court of Auditors' report 2011
Joint NGO briefing on fisheries subsidies for the European Parliament

Share This

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required