Europêche protests EU plan to scrap fuel emissions exemption for fishing industry

A Spanish fishing boat
A Spanish fishing boat | Photo courtesy of agsaz/Shutterstock
4 Min

Europêche has called for the E.U. fishing sector to be exempt from a directive calling on all industries to reduce their carbon emissions.

A revision of the 2021 E.U. Energy Tax Directive, set to be voted on by the European Parliament this summer, would set lower taxes on carbon-free energy to encourage a switch from fossil fuels.

In two letters to E.U. legislators, Europêche said fuel supplied for the purpose of navigation, fishing, and aviation have been historically exempted from taxation to ensure an internationally level playing field. The fishing industry trade group argued the elimination of the fishing industry’s exemption would unfairly benefit fishing industries in foreign countries such as China.

“The majority of E.U. countries are granting or requesting subsidies to scrap their fleets due to Brexit, the energy crisis, pandemics, inflation, increasing offshore windfarms and related area closures at sea, issues with neighboring countries, and unworkable E.U. regulations,” it said. “Taxation would only contribute to this absolute tragedy. As a consequence, foreign seafood will substitute our domestic supply, aggravating E.U. dependence on imported seafood.”

According to Europêche, fuel accounts for 40 percent of fishing companies' expenses, and according to United Nations data, total greenhouse gas emissions from the E.U. fishing fleet declined 52 percent between 1990 and 2021, reaching the European Green Deal target well ahead of the E.U.’s 2030 timeline for a broad 55 percent cut in the bloc’s greenhouse gases.

E.U. fishing industry emissions represent 0.01 percent of global anthropogenic emissions, and realistic alternatives to fossil fuels are not yet available for fishing vessels, according to the organization. 

However, environmental NGO Oceana said the E.U. Energy Taxation Directive “offers an opportunity to harmonize taxation rates and incentivize the use of green energies across all E.U. economic sectors.”

Oceana Policy Advisor Arielle Sutherland-Sherriff said the Energy Taxation Directive “must remove outdated exemptions that encourage E.U. fisheries to continue to rely on fossil fuels, harming abundance of fish stocks and putting in jeopardy the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises.”

Currently, these exemptions overwhelmingly benefit the most highly destructive fishing practices, such as industrial bottom-trawling, Sutherland-Sherriff said.

“Removing these exemptions will motivate E.U. countries to transition their fleets to low-carbon, low-impact practices,” Sutherland-Sherriff told SeafoodSource. “All sectors of the E.U. economy, including fisheries, must contribute to tackling the climate crisis, and in the case of European fisheries, this presents additional opportunities for sustainability.”

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