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ClientEarth Communications

5th March 2020

Fisheries & Seafood
Fisheries Policy
Fisheries Enforcement
Wildlife & habitats

Two biggest recipients of EU fisheries fund misused EU tax payer money, report finds

In a recent report, we found that France and Spain have so far failed to use the EU Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) in conservation efforts to end overfishing and restore the marine environment. Instead both countries have continued to give ‘harmful subsidies’ away to fund costs such as engine replacement or modernisation of vessels, contributing to overfishing.

In the report, which analyses the way France, Spain and Ireland spent the available funds in 2017 and 2018, lawyers from ClientEarth have identified major flaws in the way France and Spain already spent EU money, whilst being the biggest recipients of the EMFF.

The report shows for instance that out of 3,105 projects in Spain in 2018, 305 were dedicated to the protection and restoration of the environment while 1,558 were dedicated to temporary cessation – which artificially maintains fishers in activity.

It also highlights that French authorities have continued to promote harmful subsidies, despite the overall profitable economic situation enabling fishers to self-finance their investments.

ClientEarth Fisheries lawyer Flaminia Tacconi said:

“Our report shows that there is still a long way to go to before we can say EU money in fisheries is being used wisely. Measures that aim at protecting the environment by maintaining healthy fish stocks, restoring the marine environment, avoiding bycatch of cetaceans and improving safety on board still represent a minority of the projects financed by the current EMFF. They should be encouraged.

“We regret that instead of increasing environmentally friendly projects, some member states and MEPs are pushing for the reintroduction of capacity enhancing measures, such as subsidises for the first acquisition of vessels, in contradiction with the declared political will and urgent need to tackle overfishing.

“It is also particularly worrying and unfair that large scale fishers still get 80% of the EU fund, whilst having the biggest impact on fish stocks and the marine ecosystems.”

What’s next?

Trilogue negotiations began on Wednesday 4th March for the 2021-2027 EMFF. Our lawyers have called on the EU institutions partaking in the talks to ensure better use of EU taxpayer money.

They have warned against the potential reintroduction of harmful subsidies, which were banned in the EU in 2004 and are currently being eliminated at WTO level. Several members of the European Parliament and EU member states have proposed including them in the next framework.

Tacconi added:

“EU decision makers and member states have the responsibility to spend EU public funds in a way that best serves the interests of our common marine environment and benefits the fisheries sector, in particular small scale fishers and coastal communities.