Disastrous vote for the ocean in the European Parliament

The European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee chooses the destruction of the ocean rather than its protection

Cataclysm for the ocean. 

Today, 24 of the 27 Members of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee voted on the Regulation, which will determine the allocation of more than 6 billion euros of public subsidies to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors as well as to the protection of the marine environment for the period 2021-2027. While all nations party to the World Trade Organization are seeking to agree on a multilateral prohibition of public subsidies that encourage fleet overcapacity and overfishing, European Parliamentarians have found nothing better to do than to disavow the commitment made by the European Union to the international community by proposing, on the contrary, to reintroduce such harmful subsidies. A series of regressive amendments[1] (adopted 12 votes to 9) makes it possible to fund the construction, renewal and modernization of European fishing fleets and thus increase the pressure on fish populations and marine environments.

Today’s results will be voted in Plenary by the whole European Parliament.

Construction subsidies have been banned in Europe since 2005. MEPs therefore acted knowingly and intentionally today,” highlights Mathieu Colléter, in charge of institutional relations at BLOOM. “They decided, in their soul and conscience, to brush aside all EU and international objectives to put an end to overfishing, despite the fact that 69% of fish stocks are still overexploited in the EU. It’s a disaster.”

This is a shameful vote against the environment,” says Valérie Le Brenne, researcher at BLOOM. “MEPs were in a position to make the next European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (2021-2027) a powerful financial lever for restoring marine ecosystems and safeguarding fishers in Europe, but instead they chose to increase the pressure on resources. NGOs-backed[2] amendments proposed to allocate at least 25% of the EU budget to the protection of the marine environment and 25% to monitoring and control of fishing activities and data collection to improve the management of wild resources. These percentages were reduced to 10% and 15% respectively.

An extremely harmful compromise[3] (adopted 19 votes against 5) by the lobby-friendly Spaniard Gabriel Mato (EPP), rapporteur of the text, states that 60% of European funds could be allocated for investment in European fishing fleets! Yesterday, BLOOM’s scientific director Frédéric Le Manach recalled how the OECD had shown that public funds that help reduce fishers’ costs caused the greatest increase in fishing effort and overfishing. The OECD’s position echoes all scientific recommendations and the international UN commitment to prohibit public subsidies that encourage overfishing and fleet overcapacity by 2020 (SDG 14.6).

Regardless, 20 of the 27 compromises proposed by Gabriel Mato were particularly dangerous for the future of the EU’s ocean and seas. They were all adopted. One of these compromises[4] (adopted, 12 to 9) allows funding for “the first acquisition of a fishing vessel by a young Fisher”, but while the European Commission proposed a generous definition of youth to “under 40 years of age”, the Parliament blew this constraint. As a result, any fisherman wishing to be financially supported for the acquisition of a fishing vessel will be considered “young”, with no age limit! The same shameful article also authorizes to subsidize the construction of new boats. In addition to the reintroduction of aid for construction, renewal and modernization, an adopted amendment proposes to redefine small-scale artisanal fishing in the outermost regions of Europe,[5] which allows industrial fishers to claim public subsidies they were not eligible to so far.

In addition, subsidies for the permanent cessation of activities (better known as “buyback” or “Decommissioning” programmes), which allow a fishing vessel to benefit from subsidies to be demolished, have been reintroduced although their inefficacy to reduce overcapacity has been amply demonstrated.[6]

The Parliament’s Fisheries Committee had already lost legitimacy for its recurrent positions in favor of fishing lobbies, but here, the bias of parliamentarians reaches unprecedented heights” noted  Claire Nouvian, founder of BLOOM. “MEPs who vote such destructive provisions at a time of global alert for the ocean and biodiversity have no place in European institutions. The Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety should be the one expressing views on issues concerning such fundamental needs for the planet.”

BLOOM immediately calls on citizens and MEPs to forcefully mobilize against these horrendous compromises, to ensure that they are rejected in the Plenary vote of the Parliament, which is expected to take place in April 2019, during one of the last two Plenary sessions before the European elections.

Notes and references

[1] Similar or close amendments were gathered in compromises.

[2] BirdLife, ClientEarth, Seas At Risk, WWF.

[3] Compromise n°3 on Article 6 (« Budgetary resources under shared management »): « 2b (new). At least 10% of the Union financial support allocated per Member State shall be allocated to improving the safety, working and living conditions of the crew, training, social dialogue, skills and employment. However, the Union financial support from the EMFF allocated per Member State for all investments on board shall not exceed 60% of the Union financial support allocated per Member State. »

[4] Compromise n°8 on Article 16 « Investments in small-scale coastal fishing vessels ».

[5] Amendment 362, which modifies Article 3 point 14.

[6] European Court of Auditors, Special Report No 12 “Have EU measures contributed to adapting the capacity of the fishing fleets to available fishing opportunities?”, 2011.

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