4th Feb 2023

EU to give extra cash to fishermen struggling with high oil prices

The European Union has adopted an emergency aid package worth up to €2 billion to help the struggling fishing sector tackle the current fuel crisis, including monies previously announced, with €600 million in extra cash to be added to the existing funds.

"Political agreement was reached by a qualified majority on urgent measures for the fishing sector," said Michel Barnier, agriculture minister of France, the current holder of EU's six-month rotating presidency.

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  • The EU has moved to boost cash for fishermen amid soaring oil prices (Photo: Irish Presidency)

The move comes after intense pressure from the struggling sector, which saw militant protests by fishermen extending even to the Brussels, whose European institutions were rocked by violent demonstrations last month amid a jump in diesel prices by 240 percent since 2002.

After a tough debate that dragged until late evening on Tuesday (15 July), ministers agreed that the extra cash for fishermen would come from two key sources: some €1.4 billion from the European Fisheries Fund and national contributions, plus €600 million as part of an emergency plan announced last week by the European Commission.

"I hope that this package that has been agreed today will not only provide short relieve for operators that are in difficulties, but will also offer bases for building an efficient European fleet for the future," said Joe Borg, EU commissioner in charge of fisheries.

The action plan includes three elements: fuel dependency should be reduced, fishermen should be assisted to raise the sale value of their fish and overcapacity should be cut, partly by decommissioning vessels.

In a move to tackle overfishing in European waters, criticised by environmental groups, the ministers decided that fishermen should receive EU cash to stop fishing for up to three months, on condition that they use the time to restructure.

In terms of ceilings for national subsidies to fishermen, governments agreed to allow €30,000 over three years - which should be provided per vessel not per firm as currently it is, but with an overall cap of €100,000 per company.

But some green activists argue the bloc's policy and decision-makers continue to ignore the overcapacity of EU's fleet and its environmental damage.

"A large amount of money has been spent on the fisheries sector over the past few years and yet overcapacity and overfishing persist, the condition of the marine environment continues to deteriorate and the fisheries sector is still in crisis," said Xavier Pastor, European chief of Oceana, an NGO working to protect the oceans.

"Expenditure should focus on drastically reducing European fleet capacity, supporting moves towards a smaller, more environmentally friendly fishing fleet and not continuing to finance overfishing," he added.

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