Source: EJF *
The European Commission is currently considering allowing subsidies for the construction of new fishing vessels in the European Union’s outermost regions – the most remote European territories. Such subsidies could drive overfishing, depleting essential marine resources and threatening food security, and there is no evidence that they provide any significant benefits to local communities, a group of NGOs has said.
More than 40 environmental NGOs are urging the European Commission to honour the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy and not introduce any provisions that would allow for the reintroduction of subsidies for the construction of new fishing vessels.
Overall, 29% of the planet’s fish stocks that have been assessed are now over-fished and 61% are fully exploited, according to the latest report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. Fishing supports the livelihoods of coastal communities around the world, and marine resources are often an essential part of local food security. This is especially true of poorer, developing areas, such as the outermost regions of the EU. Managing these fisheries in a sustainable manner, to ensure that fish stocks remain healthy, is crucial.
Subsidies for new boats have been banned in the EU since 2004 and was maintained during the reform of the European Fisheries and Maritime Fund in 2014. Amending the current State Aid Guidelines to reintroduce these types of subsidies in the outermost regions would undermine the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy to end overfishing and goes against the objectives of the European Fisheries and Maritime Fund which bans subsidies for vessel construction. It also jeopardises the EU position in the on-going negotiations over fisheries subsidies at the World Trade Organization and sends the wrong political signal to political leaders around the world.
In addition, the Sustainable Development Goal number 14 clearly states that by 2020 States commit to: prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation.
Even if the European Commission is proposing to only allow subsidies for new vessels for those fisheries that are healthy, it will be very difficult to ensure that the newly built vessels only target healthy stocks. In addition, allowing subsidies for new fishing vessels could drive overcapacity in fishing fleets and overfishing by motivating increased fishing activity, supporting existing capacity that is uneconomic, and by creating strong incentives to undermine management plans.
In addition, evidence suggests that direct fleet subsidies do not generate sufficient benefits to the fishing sector or return for investment. Previous state aid schemes in the outermost regions for fleet renewal –such as the €40.5 million scheme for new fishing vessels from the French state in 2008 or the €17 million programme for new vessels in the Azores available from 2007-2013 – have not improved the situation for the fishing fleet or local communities.
The EU phased out aid for the construction of new vessels over a decade ago and is currently actively advocating for other regions to do the same. Now is not the time to erode that progress.
Read the full statement from the NGOs here.