The European Parliament and fisheries council finalized their agreement on allocating more than EUR 6 billion (USD 8.2 billion) in subsidies to the European fisheries industries, drawing both praise and criticism from major environmental groups.

The 28 January agreement sets the agenda for the future disbursement of monies from the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) through 2020, including implementations of the revised Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The CFP received an overhaul last year, updating it with newer provisions designed to promote more environmental fishing practices.

While environmental protection groups acknowledged the new EMFF agreement will give those new provisions financial support, they also criticized some allocations. Specifically, the groups noted funds being allocated to modernizing engines for fishing vessels, which will keep more fishing boats on the water.

"The direct subsidies to the fishing sector, including funding for new engines, threaten the objectives of the new Common Fisheries Policy by keeping an oversized fleet afloat," said Justine Maillot, oceans policy adviser for Greenpeace EU.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in a statement, said it also was "deeply disappointed" with the engine modernization allocations, but praised investment in data collection and regulation enforcement.

"Despite reckless plans to subsidize engine modernization many of the decisions taken will give the decimated fish stocks a chance of recovery," said Tony Long, WWF's European policy office director. "We hope that this will eventually help secure a long-term future for coastal communities that depend on fish for their livelihoods; and for consumers who rely on fish as a healthy source of nutrition."

One group, Seas At Risk, also praised the data collection allocations, citing an increase in funding of EUR 520 million (USD 707.7 million) for collection and EUR 580 million (USD 789.3 million) in enforcement. Seas At Risk said the new funds will help with data-limited fish stocks in European waters.

"Improved data collection is much needed not only to underpin the recovery of the fish stocks and the upcoming ban on discarding fish at sea, but also to facilitate the data requirements under existing environmental legislation such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive," said Dr. Monica Verbeek, executive director of Seas At Risk.

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