EU fund proposal would artificially keep unsustainable fisheries afloat

ClientEarth lawyers have criticised the newly released European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) proposal for continuing heavy subsidies for both environmentally and economically unsustainable fishing.

The fund risks keeping an unsustainable number of fishers in the sector, despite unhealthy fish stocks. It also lacks substantive funding for more crucial areas such as data collection, control or increased protection of fish stocks and the marine environment.

The fund, which is granted by the EU on a seven year basis, should be designed to help fishers, European countries and other interested parties implement the objectives of the common fisheries policy (CFP).

This public money should be invested with the aim of having thriving EU fisheries, which are environmentally sustainable in the long term and able to provide environmental, social and economic benefits to all its actors, coastal communities and society as a whole.

ClientEarth Lawyer Flaminia Tacconi said: “The renewal proposal for the 2021-2027 period follows a hasty procedure, which did not even involve a public consultation. As a result, some economically and environmentally harmful subsidies maintaining people artificially in the fisheries sector have been kept.”

The proposal reintroduced subsidies for the destruction of fishing vessels. This aid, which was supposed to be phased out in the current EMFF at the latest by 31 December 2017, has been considered very problematic in the past, as cash flow is difficult to control and money for destruction was reinvested into the sector.

More dramatically, this aid takes away substantial financial resources for more relevant actions such as financing fishing activities with a low impact on the marine environment. Another controversial measure is the introduction of subsidies that help small-scale coastal fishers to acquire their first fishing vessels or finance the replacement of engines.

These are clearly capacity-building subsidies, which are heavily problematic and have been criticised not only at EU, but also international level. They go against the EU’s commitment to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to eliminate these types of subsidies by 2020.

Flaminia Tacconi added: “Instead of financing the withdrawal of vessels or increasing fishing capacity, the EMFF should concentrate on proactive actions that can allow people in the sector to fish in a more environmentally sustainable, as well as more profitable way.

“The post-2020 EMFF should focus on more selective fishing, improving management and monitoring tools, and allowing fishers to get the right income for fish caught in an environmentally sustainable way, in line with the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy.”

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