Public subsidies

Harmful to biodiversity and encouraging overfishing, subsidies are increasingly recognized by governments, researchers and NGOs as a major barrier to the transformation of the fishing sector to an economically viable and environmentally responsible activity. Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, has again highlighted the problem of subsidies fueling overfishing and the necessity to eliminate them because they lead to unsustainable practices. In order to implement a public funding policy economically, socially and environmentally responsible, fisheries managers and policy makers need objective assessments based on cross-sectional, transparent and critical data. It is on the realization of such research that BLOOM focuses. This is a particularly necessary action since the issue of subsidies granted to the fishing sector is a French traditional taboo. Transparency has never been as essential as it is today.

Figures of French fishing

Ranked 4th in the European Union with about 10% of the catch, French fishing generated 1 billion € of sales in 2012 and represents 93,000 direct and indirect jobs.The political agenda

The next European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is being negotiated for the 2014-2020 period. MEP Alain Cadec (EPP) is the rapporteur.

See the report here.

Mr Cadec proposed the reintroduction of aid for the construction of vessels.

See the report of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) on this measure here.

On July 10, the Fisheries Commission of Parliament voted on the reintroduction of aid construction (12 votes against 11) but Mr Cadec did not get the mandate he wanted to avoid the vote in plenary, passing the regulation in first reading directly with the Council.

The amounts involved

Grants allocated to the fishing sector under the Common Fisheries Policy amounted to 4.3 billion € between 2007 and 2013 (through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, EMFF).

Estimates based on data from the European Commission assess that subsidies reach 80% of the value of the first sale of catches in France, 60% in Spain and England, 70% in Italy, 75% in Denmark.In 2007, in France, public support for marine fisheries and fish farming totaled 204..3 million euros. In 2006, 288 million euros, including 22 million from the Hazards Prevention Fund for Fisheries (Fonds de Prévention des Aléas de la Pêche, FPAP).

The French state funding accounted for 73% of public support and those of the EU 27%. The state support is funded by the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture (38%), the Ministry of Research (20%) and the Ministry of the Sea (15%).

Read the study of Benoît Mesnil (Ifremer, 2008) dealing with the amounts and the role of subsidies in France, aiming at preserving social peace rather than engaging fishing activities to ecological and socio-economic sustainability.

Comparison between public aid for the fisheries and the agricultural sectors

  • In France, landings and sales of fish represent 1.1 billion euros for 808 million in various subsidies, thus 73% of the value created (cf. publication B. Mesnil Ifremer 2008 / Tanguy Report2006).
  • Agricultural production generates 70 billion euros in 2004 for 29 billion euros of public assistance, thus 41% of the value created.

Commitments to eliminate harmful subsidies

On several occasions in front of the international community, nations commited themselves to eliminating harmful subsidies, that is to say, those contributing to illegal and unregulated fishing, as well as those leading to overcapacity of fishing fleets.

Rio+20, June 2012

The last article asserting those objectives dates from June 2012 (article 173) at the Rio+20 Conference: read the articleWe reaffirm our commitment in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overcapacity, taking into account the importance of this sector to developing countries, and we reiterate our commitment to conclude multilateral disciplines on fisheries subsidies that will give effect to the WTO Doha Development Agenda and the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration mandates to strengthen disciplines on subsidies in the fisheries sector, including through the prohibition of certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing”.

The article calls for better transparency of subsidies allocated (art. 173).

We encourage States to further improve the transparency and reporting of existing fisheries subsidies programmes”.

Conference of the parties of the convention on biological diversity in 2010

The commitment to eliminate subsidies was reiterated at the 2010 meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

WTO 2006

Europe took a strong stand against the increase in fishing capacity. The European Commission’s proposition in April 2006 enunciates what follows:

It seems therefore obvious that the most effective way of addressing this problem is to ban the most problematic subsidies, i.e. those that relate to capacity in the context of the construction of new vessels and treatment of subsidies given for the modernisation of existing vessels. The guiding principle must be that public aid can under no circumstances contribute to overcapacity.”

WTO at Hong Kong in 2005 (D9 of the ministerial declaration)

« Note that there is broad agreement that the Group should strengthen disciplines on subsidies in the fisheries sector, including through the prohibition of certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing, andncall on Participants promptly to undertake further detailed work to, inter alia, establish the nature and extent of those disciplines, including transparency and enforceability. Appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed Members should be an integral part of the fisheries subsidies negotiations, taking into account the importance of this sector to development priorities, poverty reduction, and livelihood and food security concerns;”

The Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2002

Commitments were made to eliminate harmful subsidies at the 2002 World Summit of Sustainable Development.

Critics of subsidies

Critics emitted by the European Commission (Page 8, may 2013)

Tools for sailing in troubled waters of subsidies

Each day, the miniblog « Catch of the day » (on « tumblr ») exhibit a beneficiary of the European subsidies to fisheries.

Founded and managed by the NGO Pew Environment Group, the website  gives access to all European subsidies allocated to fishing fleets until 2007 and enables people to find out who receives what, and why.

FRANCE demands subsidies through the CFP reform!

Seemingly forgetting the commitments made by France to the international community like for instance the fact that the supervising Ministry of Fisheries is now the Ministry of Ecology (sic!), the current minister, Frédéric Cuvilier, pleads in Brussels to obtain a European funding mechanism of fleet restructuration and modernization for the « essential » ones (claiming safety and environmental objectives to support a more effective tool that will inevitably lead to an increasing fishing pressure, as it has already been shown by many researchers)!

Watch the video (it is possible to move the cursor to Mr Cuvilier at the 25th minute)

NGOs’ position

Consult this document to understand the toxicity of aid for the construction, modernization and restructuration of fishing fleets: Read the document

Read the position of BLOOM, member of the OCEAN2012 coalition.

References, sources and links


Public subsidies according to Calvin and Hobbes:


Share :