Overfishing Exacerbated by EU Fisheries Subsidies

study released today by the Poseidon Aquatic Resource and the Pew Environment Group finds that EU fisheries subsidies have failed to reduce fleet overcapacity, thus exerting fishing pressure on stocks at two to three times sustainable levels.

The ten EU member states evaluated in Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) 2000-2006 Shadow Evaluation accounted for 93 percent of the €4.9billion of fisheries subsidies allocated. The European Commission has identified fleet overcapacity as the principal failure of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

"EU fisheries subsidies and the overfishing of valuable fish stocks are clearly connected," said Tim Huntington of Poseidon Aquatic Resource. "Of the funding analysed, 29 percent went to measures that would result in increased fishing pressure, whereas 17 percent was spent on measures known to support healthy fisheries."

Key findings from the study include:

  • Construction and modernisation - Almost 3,000 new vessels were constructed and nearly 8,000 were modernised with FIFG funds.
  • Scrapping - Twice as much funding went for the scrapping of small (less than 12 meters) vessels than for their modernisation and construction. Vessels over 24 meters received significantly more monies for modernisation and construction than for scrapping.
  • Environmental impact - The construction and modernisation of vessels enables overfishing of several key European fish stocks, such as Southern hake, monkfish, sharks and prawns.

This study analyses the 2000-2006 FIFG data from the fishsubsidy.org Web site. For the current funding cycle (2007-2013), subsidies are allocated by the European Fisheries Fund. Its tighter disclosure criteria make a similar allocation study impossible.

"Transparency has been removed with the new funding instrument. The public have a right to know what they have funded," said Markus Knigge, policy and research director at the Pew Environment Group. "Fish stocks are a public resource that the European Commission and member states are responsible for managing sustainably on our behalf. Instead public monies have funded overfishing, with devastating effects on the marine environment and fisheries dependent communities."

The subsidy allocations for each of the 10 EU member states covered by the study are Denmark (5 percent), Italy (11 percent), France (9 percent), Germany (3 percent), Greece (5.5 percent), Poland (3 percent), Portugal (5 percent), Spain (46 percent), Sweden (2 percent) and the United Kingdom (5 percent).