The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund 2021-2027 (EMFAF) has now become law after more than 2 years of negotiations. The EMFAF is the main financial instrument for addressing the sustainability of our ocean and its marine ecosystems and for strengthening the viability of small-scale fishers and coastal communities. Ahead of the votes, NGOs called on the European Parliament and Council to reject the trilogue agreement as it contained harmful subsidies. 

Negotiations were prolonged by the Covid-19 pandemic. The EMFAF could have supported a green recovery from the economic fall out of the covid crisis, providing social well-being, securing green jobs, and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources within planetary boundaries, but decision makers failed to seize that opportunity. 

On the contrary, the EMFAF 2021-2027 includes harmful subsidies – funding engine replacement, fishing vessel modernisation and acquisition, and temporary and permanent cessation – that will lead to more overcapacity in the EU fleet and more overfishing in EU waters and beyond. It also makes it easier to grant these harmful subsidies as it includes less stringent conditions than the previous EMFF. 

In addition, the EMFAF agreement allows large-scale, industrial fleets the same access to all types of subsidies as small-scale fleets, undermining the EU’s goal to foster a more low-impact, small-scale fishing sector. Moreover, calls by NGOs for at least 25% of the fund to be invested in protecting and restoring our oceans were ignored.   

Member States will now design their operational programs, plans outlining what types of subsidies will be granted at a national level under the new EMFAF. SAR calls on EU Member States not to grant harmful fisheries subsidies to their fishing fleets and instead use EU taxpayers’ money to speed up the just transition to ecologically responsible aquaculture and low-impact fisheries. A transition that is needed to boost the resilience of our ocean to climate change and its ability to support life on earth.