Oceana: Handouts keeping fishing afloat


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
September 12, 2011

Oceana on Tuesday released a report revealing that taxpayer handouts totaling EUR 3.3 billion – more than three times the amount typically quoted — are keeping the EU’s fishing industry afloat.

In “The European Union and Fishing Subsidies,” Oceana says government subsidies to the fishing sector in nearly half of EU countries are greater than the total value of their fish catch.

The growing demand for seafood, combined with overfishing, has promoted the major expansion of Europe’s fishing fleet in both size and reach. Thanks to the growing amount of government subsidies, the EU fishing fleet is now estimated to be two to three times larger than what is sustainable, according to Oceana. By financing items such as fuel, these subsidies push Europe’s large fleets to fish in the vast expanses of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Today, more than two-thirds of all EU subsidies have the ability to enhance fishing capacity and promote overfishing.

“Taxpayers are literally paying for fishermen to overfish. During these difficult economic times, it is shameful that governments are using hard-earned taxpayer money to destroy a natural resource that more than a billion people depend on worldwide,” said Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director for Oceana. “Subsidies are a detriment to global competitiveness. Subsidies unfairly disadvantage coastal communities by reducing the cost of operations for industrial fishing fleets and increasing the number, size and power of boats competing for fish.”

The report’s other key findings include:

• Europe is one of the world’s top three subsidizers, along with China and Japan.

• Total subsidies to the fishing sector are equivalent to 50 percent of the value of the total fish catch by the EU in the same year (EUR 6.6 billion).

• Spain, France, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Italy received the most fishing subsidies.

• Fuel subsidies amount for half of all EU fisheries subsidies.

• In 2009, the EU paid close to EUR 150 million to 14 countries to secure access to their fisheries.

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