Press release: April 2019

European Parliament threatens efforts on sustainable fishing with proliferation of harmful subsidies

Efforts to end overfishing were dealt a blow today by an EU parliament vote to allow harmful subsidies as part of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

In a plenary session vote on the rules of the post 2020 EMFF, MEPs decided to allow subsidies that are considered harmful by international standards because they increase the number of fishing vessels which will lead to even more overfishing.

ClientEarth fisheries lawyer Flaminia Tacconi said: “This decision wipes out efforts made in the last 15 years to give up harmful subsidies that lead to fishing overcapacity, keeping an unsustainable number of fishers in the sector despite unhealthy fish stocks.

“Instead of doing something good for fisheries and the health of our oceans in the long term, MEPs are thinking short term and letting an opportunity slip through the net.

“They are ready to sacrifice the EU’s international commitments against harmful subsidies and waste EU taxpayers’ money by keeping the sector artificially afloat.”

ClientEarth lawyers have criticised the reintroduction of a series of subsidies that were either eliminated, phased out, or granted under stricter conditions in the rules of the current regime, and in particular:

  • Subsidies for fleet renewal for all small-scale fisheries in Europe including in the outermost regions (which were eliminated in 2004 and later forbidden all over the EU).
  • Looser conditions to subsidise the modernisation of engines.
  • Funding with very loose conditions of the permanent cessation of activity, which was being phased out in the current EMFF. Reports have shown that it is very difficult to check that these subsidies are not reinvested in replacement fishing capacity.
  • Looser conditions to subsidise the temporary cessation of activity.

This vote follows a legislative proposal from the Commission that was already criticised for reintroducing harmful subsidies.

Tacconi added: “Today, MEPs have taken a huge step backwards, reintroducing subsidies such as the one to renew the fleet which had been forbidden for 15 years.

“As a consolation prize, they dedicated 25 percent of the fund to protection and restoration of the marine environment, but that will never counterbalance the negative effects of harmful subsidies.

“We call on the Council to truly help fishers and negotiate an EMFF that protects their resource instead of subsidising its destruction. European seas are one of the most overfished on the planet already and it is urgent to focus all our efforts on achieving the EU’s objective of fishing sustainably by 2020.”


About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.