15 July 2021
Analysis of COVID fisheries subsidies: the devastating favouritism of the French government
15 July 2021
A new BLOOM study, published in the scientific journal Marine Policy, highlights the massive and unequal allocation of COVID aid to the most powerful companies in the sector with destructive fishing practices.
The results of this publication illustrate the French government’s choice to ignore European environmental and social objectives and instead continue to finance the industrial fishing model, to the detriment of ocean protection and small-scale coastal fishing.
In March 2020, the European Commission launched the Investment Initiatives, a package of exceptional aid aimed at helping European economic stakeholders cope with the COVID-19 crisis. In April 2020, this resulted in a French government decree defining the conditions for obtaining temporary cessation aid for the fisheries sector. BLOOM denounced the discriminatory criteria and warned that they would ensure that the aid would be allocated to the largest vessels and to destructive fishing methods.
These criticisms are now confirmed by BLOOM’s study on the COVID aid allocated in 2020. It shows that 82.5% (i.e. 12.2 million) of COVID subsidies was received by vessels using destructive fishing methods (otter trawls, dredges, seines). This figure alone demonstrates an absurd use of public funds from an environmental point of view. In addition, there is a major economic and social inconsistency: these same vessels represent only 22.1% of the French fleet. This grossly unequal allocation of aid is confirmed by an additional fact in the study: seven companies/groups representing only 0.8% (53 vessels) of the French fleet received 28.5% of all subsidies. Armement Porcher received €1,446,384 for 16 trawlers.
“This is yet another example of the government’s shameless favouritism towards a handful of industrial players who are destroying the ocean by way of public subsidies,” says Valérie Le Brenne, co-author of the study and a researcher at BLOOM.
The results of BLOOM’s study confirm that France is failing to meet its commitments and objectives to support low-impact coastal communities and rebuild marine ecosystems – including during the COVID-19 crisis. The French government is fully responsible in this regard. As early as March 2020, the government chose to consult only the National Fisheries Committee, at the hands of the industrial fishing sector, and ignore civil society demands regarding the criteria for granting aid. The resulting decree was a gift to industrial fishing: no environmental or social criteria for accessing aid, a “first come, first served” approach and, as a bonus, no ceiling on the amounts that vessels measuring over 12 metres could receive.
Furthermore, the French government and administration ensure that the financing of industrial fishing by public funds is carried out without the scrutiny of civil society and the European Union. For example, no public analysis has been produced by the French Ministry of Agriculture and the French Administration on the actual allocation of COVID aid. Only the raw data indicating the nominal subsidies per vessel have been made public, as required by European law. “This is the best way for the government to avoid any responsibility and poorly conceal the use of public funds for the benefit of industrialists,” concludes Frédéric Le Manach, co-author of the study and scientific director of BLOOM.