Oceana, the international ocean conservation organisation, remains convinced that increasing fuel subsidies is not an appropriate response to rising fuel prices and urges governments to find longer term structural solutions to help the sector adapt to a future with higher fuel costs and ensure the long term sustainability of the sector.
Oceana believes that governments should be helping their fishermen move away from fuel intensive gears such as bottom trawling, and restructure to address the chronic overcapacity of the EU fleet, which means that fishermen often have to fish harder, further and deeper to catch ever-dwindling stocks. This requires more fuel and makes the fisherman even more vulnerable to price hikes.
Oceana Executive Director Xavier Pastor explains: “Some fishing gear like bottom trawls are highly fuel intensive and also damaging to the marine environment. We need intelligent programmes to promote less fuel dependent fishing gear which will have the double effect of reducing the dependency of the sector on fuel and also being less harmful to our seas.”
Pastor adds: “For many years the European Union has been promoting and subsidising fishing gear and fisheries that are not fuel efficient, as well as paying for more powerful engines. These measures have only exacerbated the crisis the sector is facing today”.
But rising fuel costs are only one reason for the decreased profitability of fishing. Other factors are the relatively low retail prices for fish and the fact that fishermen receive only a small part of the end price. Ricardo Aguilar, Oceana Research and Project Director, states: “Too much money is lost in the chain of commercialisation - much more of the price of the fish that consumers are paying must be paid to the fisherman.”
“The food market in Europe is very concentrated and the big supermarket chains have enormous buying power” adds Oceana economist Anne Schroeer: “The big buyers have to understand that legally caught and properly managed fish has a higher quality and they need to pay a fair price to fishermen. Surveys show that consumers are prepared to pay more for a high quality sustainable product.”