Thursday

17th Aug 2017

Opinion

Sea of subsidies

  • Votes in EU parliament committees this week have important implications for sustainable fishing (Photo: Bruno de Giusti)

This week, European Parliament members of the Regional Development, Employment and Environment Committees will cast their votes on the financial mechanism for European fisheries, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

At a time when the EU is facing one of the biggest economic crises of this generation, it is now more important than ever to ensure that public money is spent efficiently and for the public benefit.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The state of European fisheries is no laughing matter; 47 percent of the assessed fish stocks in the Atlantic and 80 percent in the Mediterranean are overfished. Yet despite the precarious condition of fisheries in Europe and beyond, member states continue to provide massive subsidies to support and maintain fleets that are too large for what the ocean can sustainably provide.

Yet repeated attempts to tackle fleet overcapacity using subsidies have failed, and technological improvements have overshadowed any successful decrease in capacity. Because so many member states fail to properly report on whether their fleets are balanced in relation to the available resources, European taxpayer’s money is spent blindly on inadequate measures aimed to achieve this balance.

Furthermore, only a handful of the fleets in Europe are turning a solid profit without public support and a large portion are running losses. The fisheries sector is not living up to its economic potential, in part because governments focus on keeping unprofitable large scale fishing fleets afloat with taxpayers' money.

The European Commission’s proposal of a revised EMFF, which will replace the existing fund in 2014 and will last until 2020, attempts to reverse the spiral of subsidies-dependency in the sector. Many of the ineffective or potentially harmful subsidies, such as funding to build new fishing boats, renew engines or modernize boats, are excluded from the EMFF.

Despite clear evidence that these measures are frequently a waste of public money and detrimental to the environment, eight member states (France, Spain, Lithuania, Portugal, Poland, Malta, Ireland and Slovenia) are fighting the commission’s proposal to maintain EU subsidies that finance the modernization and scrapping of fishing vessels. Alain Cadec, the rapporteur in charge of the dossier in the European Parliament, is following a similar path at the Parliament level and goes as far as proposing to reintroduce funding to build new vessels into the EMFF.

Refusing to acknowledge the gravity of the situation in Europe and defending the status quo endangers the future of the already troubled sector. Continuing to spend public funds on inefficient measures will only push our fisheries deeper into crisis and further damage the state of the stocks.

The reform of the EMFF provides an opportunity to invest in a long term economic viability of the fishing industry. Priority should be given to measures that ensure productive and healthy oceans. Funding should support investments in marine protected areas, compliance controls, and scientific evaluations of the state of stocks. Studies have shown that eliminating harmful government subsidies worldwide and putting in place effective management systems would mean that in just 12 years, the returns of the fisheries sector would begin to outweigh the costs, and the total gains over 50 years would return the investment three- to seven-fold

The quality and availability of marine resources for future generations depends on the policy that is being shaped now. If the economic crisis has taught us anything, it’s that it is high time for decision makers to think about the long-term effects of their decisions.

This week’s votes and the upcoming Council of Ministers meeting to agree on a partial general approach for the EMFF are incredibly important if we are to rebalance fisheries and make the industry profitable and sustainable. For the sake of European fishers, and the resources that they depend on, it is crucial that they vote to eliminate subsidies which contribute to overfishing and redirect aid to supporting a transition towards truly sustainable fisheries.

The writer is Executive Director of Oceana Europe.

EU fisheries reform losing momentum

After a promising start, fundamental reform of EU fisheries polices has lost momentum but it is not too late to repair some of the damage to the engine room of the 2012 reform.

New EU policy aims to reduce overfishing by 2015

In a frank admission that the current EU fisheries policy is "not working", the responsible commissioner Maria Damanaki on Wednesday unveiled a new set of measures aimed at reducing overfishing by 2015. Environmental groups are sceptical that the plan will work.

EU needs lasting solution to refugee crisis

If we continue with the failed approach of the last two years then this could become a systemic crisis that threatens the EU itself, writes Gianni Pittella.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  2. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  3. Russian power most feared in Europe
  4. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  5. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  6. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  7. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  8. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides