EU Fishing Ministers are likely to agree to allow the reintroduction of subsidies for the “modernization” of the EU fleet.
At their meeting on 22-23 May, European Union Fisheries Ministers will meet to strike a deal on the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), which will determine how millions of euros of public funding should be spent on the European Fisheries sector over the next seven years.
The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform, agreed by Fisheries Ministers in 2002, committed the EU to end the use of subsidies to modernise vessels, except for reasons of safety, hygiene and quality. But in a striking U-turn, Ministers are likely to reverse this decision and allow public funding to be used to once again to support modernisation, this time through subsidies for new engines.
“It is totally absurd that Ministers are even considering using public money to pay for new engines in fishing vessels at a time when the EU fleet is greatly overcapacity,” stated Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana in Europe.
The EU Member States have been wrangling over the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) since the Commission published the proposal in 2004. A group of countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland and Greece have been pushing for the reintroduction of subsidies for new engines, with no accompanying capacity reduction in order to compensate for the resulting increase in efficiency of the new engine.
The impact of such a measure may be to increase the pressure on the already precarious state of fish stocks in European waters, where the majority of stocks are outside safe biological limits. The impact could also be felt outside EU waters, as more efficient vessels venture into the waters of third countries and on the high seas in search of fish.
“Subsidies to the fisheries sector under the EFF should focus on providing support to moves towards sustainable fisheries, as the EU is committed to following the reformed CFP,” said Julie Cator, Brussels based Oceana Policy Director. “This could include support for more environmentally friendly fishing gear or decommissioning vessels,” she added.