Spanish shipowners have requested subsidies to construct vessels that will operate outside EU waters.
Re-flagged EU fleet activities in developing countries lack transparency and operate outside EU fisheries laws or official Fisheries Partnership Agreements.
Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, strongly opposes fishing subsidies for capacity enhancing and the construction of new vessels. Currently, 80 percent of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. Yet last week, companies from Vigo (Spain) asked the Galician and central Spanish government for financial aid. The shipowners want to construct new vessels in Galicia for their industrial fleet that operates mainly in developing countries.
“European waters have already been drastically overfished. EU taxpayers’ money must not now be used to increase fishing capacity and overfishing in third countries”, says Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana Europe “Subsidies for new vessel construction are strictly prohibited under the rules of the European Fisheries Fund as the fishing fleet is already overcapacity. Oceana is therefore urging the EU Commission and Spanish officials to prevent the request from being considered."
Spanish companies boast a 460 vessel strong industrial fishing fleet that operates under foreign flags, mostly in developing countries. This fleet, which operates outside EU fisheries laws and Fishing Partnership Agreements, catches around 500,000 tonnes of fish annually for the EU market.
“The size of this fleet perfectly illustrates how EU subsidies lead to overfishing”, adds Anne Schroeer, economist at Oceana Europe. “Vessels have been built using EU subsidies, then “re-flagged” to fish in developing countries waters, often with fuel intensive and destructive gears like bottom trawls. These fisheries would not be as profitable without subsidies.”
Re-flagged fleet operations are often obscure. It is unclear where they are fishing, if and how the fish stocks are managed, if they are bottom trawling in areas that should be or are already protected, if the governments of the developing countries get a fair price for the fish and if they are taking fish that is urgently needed for food of the coastal communities in those countries.
Negotiations to ban harmful fishing subsidies in the Doha round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) make up one of the most important international efforts to stop global overfishing. WTO members continue to agree that rules on subsidies are needed to help ensure the sustainability of the world’s fishery resources. Oceana is currently engaged in an international campaign to end harmful fishing subsidies.