NGOs pan latest EU fishing subsidy vote

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
July 9, 2013

Several environmental activist groups have spoken out against a vote today by the European Parliament’s fisheries committee to create EUR 1.6 billion (USD 2.1 billion) in subsidies aimed at modernizing and upgrading existing E.U. fishing fleets.

The committee vote now has to be cleared by the full plenary at a later date, according to Maria Damanaki, commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries.

"The commission's proposal is more ambitious than the position of the majority in the fisheries committee: it would put an end to the ineffective subsidies of the past, which contributed to overfishing and to the economic decline of the fishing sector,” Damanaki said.

Environmental protection groups such as Greenpeace spoke out against the committee’s vote, saying the new subsidies will encourage overfishing, with new, more modern vessels and the construction of small-scale boats.

“This decision will not benefit the public, the economic prospects of the fishing sector, or the recovery of our seas,” said Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace’s E.U. fisheries policy director. “When fishing grounds are depleted, fishermen use subsidies to cover their losses. But using taxpayers’ money for bigger nets or more powerful vessels will continue to fuel overfishing and leave fishermen trapped in a vicious circle.”

Upgraded boats, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will allow ships to travel farther and stay at sea longer, further endangering fish stocks that might be farther away from their home ports.

“This deal will set the recovery of stocks back decades, especially in areas like the Mediterranean where the bulk of funds on fleet renewal will be spent,” said Tony Long, director of the WWF’s European policy office. “Members of the Fisheries Committee were asked to come up with a plan that could promote sustainable fisheries over the long-term. Instead we have a situation where over 20,000 vessels will be eligible for funding to upgrade that could eventually destroy remaining fish stocks.”

And Seas at Risk, a coalition of European environmental awareness groups, called the vote “disastrous,” and said it undermines efforts to rewrite the E.U.’s common fisheries reform (CFP) policy.

“In February, the European Parliament made history with a progressive vote to reform the Common Fisheries Policy, aimed at ending overfishing,” said Monica Verbeek, Seas at Risk’s executive director. “Today’s change of tune brings Europe back to square one on a key issue, totally undermining the progress made earlier this year in the CFP reform process.”

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