Press release: 3 March 2020

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

France and Spain have so far failed to use the EU maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF) to implement the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy to end overfishing and restore the marine environment, a new report has found.

Environmental law charity ClientEarth has found that both countries have kept on promoting harmful subsidies that can lead to damaging overfishing, while failing to finance a sufficient amount of measures for the conservation of the marine environment.

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 kept on financing harmful subsidies, such as engine replacement or modernisation of vessels, despite the overall profitable economic situation enabling fishers to self-finance their investments on board.

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 EU fund, whilst having the biggest impact on fish stocks and the marine ecosystems.”

Lawyers have called EU institutions starting trilogue negotiations for the 2021-2027 EMFF tomorrow for better use of EU taxpayer money.

They have warned against 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:

“We strongly urge EU decision-makers and Member states, which are currently discussing the design of the future EMFF, to take into account our key recommendations and ensure EU public money is spent to effectively achieve the objectives of the Common Fisheries policy.

“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.”


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.