At the October Council meeting, European Fisheries Ministers have reached a provisional agreement on the future of EU fisheries subsidies, setting aside €975 million for controversial subsidies that maintain or increase the current overcapacity of fishing vessels and thus contribute to overfishing.

At the October Council meeting, European Fisheries Ministers have reached a provisional agreement on the future of EU fisheries subsidies, setting aside €975 million for controversial subsidies that maintain or increase the current overcapacity of fishing vessels and thus contribute to overfishing.

As if they had simply forgotten the commitment to eliminate harmful fishing subsidies they had made at the Rio Summit and the U.N. General Assembly this summer, the Ministers agreed to allow the use of 15% of the future European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the continuation of subsidising engine replacement, scrapping of vessels and temporary cessation - measures that have proven to contribute to maintaining or increasing fishing capacity. Several Ministers even called for subsidies for building new vessels – a measure that was abolished under the current European Fisheries Funds, as the resulting increase of overcapacity has had detrimental effects on the fish stocks and the sector profitability.

The agreement - called the ‘partial general approach’ - is not legally binding but fixes the Council’s position ahead of the negotiations with the European Parliament.

In an open letter sent prior to the meeting, Seas At Risk and the Fisheries Secretariat called on all EU Fisheries Ministers to end the provision of funds for these fleet measures, pointing out the absurdity of spending money on harmful subsidies that would exacerbate existing problems during a time of financial crisis.

It will now be up to Members of the European Parliament to ensure that such an approach does not go forward. The Parliament is however far from an adopted position and it is not expected that a vote in plenary will take place before the end of the first quarter of 2013.

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