Press Release

New Online Database of €1.1 Billion in EU Fisheries Subsidies; Concerns About Declining Data Standards

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Fishsubsidy.org, the transparency project which in 2009 launched an online database of EU fisheries subsidies from 1994 to 2006, has launched a new database of payments under the European Fisheries Fund, from 2007 to 2010.

However, the project’s co-founders have sounded a grave warning about the deteriorating quality of data released to the public, and the implications of this the waste, fraud and abuse of EU funds.

It is really, really bad. Many governments don’t comply with basic EU laws on transparency. Some governments publish no data at all, others are publishing incomplete data in bad formats like PDF files running to thousands of pages. This is money from the EU budget, paid for by European citizens who have a right to know who gets what. The European Commission must get a grip.Nils Mulvad, the Danish data journalist and fishsubsidy.org co-founder who led the collection of data from the twenty seven EU member states.

Fishsubsidy.org co-founder Jack Thurston said:

“There is a new European Transparency Initiative. But today we have less information on EU fish subsidy payments than we used to have in past years. It’s a real step backwards in transparency and at a time when we desperately need to know how this money is being spent. Are EU funds are being used to fish for over-exploited fish stocks, or perhaps worse, for criminal fishing operations. We just don’t know. What is most startling is that neither does the Commission because we know that they have not themselves asked for this data from national governments.”

A transparency index evaluates the data published by member states for completeness, details and accessibility. It shows which countries are doing better and which doing badly. The ranking is topped by Sweden. Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia and the UK score relatively highly, though with significant deficiencies. The worst performers were Greece and Portugal, which appear to have published no data at all, despite spending a significant share of EU fisheries funds. Spain, which accounts for some 40 per cent of fisheries subsidies spending, scored just 48% in the transparency ranking.

Eyes Wide Shut: EU rules on transparency in fisheries subsidies are failing citizens – and the European Commission couldn’t care less (PDF) is a report describing fishsubsidy.org’s quest for data on the European Fisheries Fund.

Notes to editors:

  1. Fishsubsidy.org is a project coordinated by EU Transparency, a nonprofit organisation in the UK, and the Pew Environment Group. The aim is to obtain detailed data related to payments and recipients of fisheries subsidies in every EU member state and make this data available in a way that is useful to European citizens. Subsidies paid to owners of fishing vessels and others working in the fishing industry under the European Fisheries Fund total about €1 billion a year (2007-2013).
  2. Detailed analysis of EU fisheries subsidies from 2000 to 2006 is available in “FIFG 2000-2006 Shadow Evaluation” (Cappell, R., T. Huntingdon and G. Macfadyen).
  3. A list of vessels in the tuna fleet that receive EU subsidies is available at www.fishsubsidy.org/EU/tuna-fleet, and a list of vessels convicted of serious infringements (illegal fishing) is available at www.fishsubsidy.org/infringements. A list of vessels that received EU grants for modernisation and shortly afterwards grants for scrapping is available at: www.fishsubsidy.org/news/features/modernised-then-scrapped
  4. Under the European Transparency Initiative, details of all end beneficiaries of EU funds should be published, to improve accountability, legitimacy and as a way of combating fraud and abuse. See: www.ec.europa.eu/transparency/eti/index_en.htm
  5. The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organisation that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

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