Q&A: Cepesca defends fishing subsidies


Chris Dove, SeafoodSource.com contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain

Published on
October 20, 2011

In an interview with SeafoodSource, María Santos, director of communications at the Spanish Fishing Confederation, Cepesca, responds to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ (ICIJ) “Looting the Seas” report. Published early this month, the report targets Spain for hoarding billions of euros in subsidies to “build its bloated fleet and prop up a money-losing industry.” It also accuses the country’s industrial-scale fishing fleet of “systematically flouting the rules while officials overlook fraud and continue to fund offenders.”

Why is it necessary for the European Union to aid Spain’s fishing industry? 

European Union policies ensure a fair standard of living among fishing populations. The Spanish Constitution imposes a duty to dispense special treatment to the fisheries sector.

Why does Spain receive more aid than other EU member states? 

Structural funds are distributed based on member states’ per-capita income. Spain’s many autonomous communities have below average per-capita income so receive more money for roads, building infrastructure, etc. The same criteria apply to fisheries — having more fleets, fishermen, canners and marketers, we receive bigger budgets. Spain is the EU’s primary industrial fish producer, with 20 percent of output, and generates 15 percent of EU fishing employment?[or] 50,000 direct jobs.”

Has Spain received assistance for dismantling ships? 

Spain reduced [the number of] ships by more than 47 percent from 21,000 in 1986 to 11,000 today. Thanks to modern technology our ships are safer, more comfortable, less polluting and better from a health perspective.

What about tax-exempt gas? 

Fisheries gas is tax exempt for everyone. The same applies to diesel for commercial boats.

What’s the status of EU fish stocks?? 

The European Commission claims 80 percent of stocks are overfished and 59 percent of stocks are unknown. If they don’t know the population, how can they say stocks are overfished? Current stocks are achieved through the implementation of tough management measures. Years ago we decided on a more demanding goal — maximizing sustainable yield. We’re in the process of reaching that goal. The commission aims to do so in 2015.

Is the ICIJ credibile? 

As a champion of “independent” world information, ICIJ allows their stories to be “sponsored” by foundations and NGOs, calling into question the ICIJ’s independence, veracity or intent.

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