Fisheries subsidies: catastrophic vote at the European Parliament

Today, on Thursday 4 April 2019, the European Parliament voted on the 2021-2027 European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), 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. “These results constitute a huge offence to EU commitments towards sustainable development, given that the re-introduction of harmful subsidies (construction, modernisation etc.) will fuel overcapacity and overfishing. We expected a bad result, but not such a disastrous and irresponsible outcome” reacted Mathieu Colléter, BLOOM’s Science & public policy officer. In fact, the 2021-2027 EMFF will encourage the destruction of marine ecosystems and the mismanagement of European fisheries. This fifteen-year leap backwards sends an extremely negative signal to the international community, as negotiations are under way at the World Trade Organisation to ban such harmful subsidies by the end of 2019, as mandated by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14.6.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had an historic opportunity to get the math right. And although they did adopt one crucial amendment to allocate 25% of the budget to the protection and knowledge of marine environment, they chiefly adopted a number of toxic amendments that will re-open the European Pandora’s box of harmful public subsidies. For instance, although they were banned in 2005, MEPs chose to re-introduce subsidies for the construction of fishing vessels with the objective of increasing fishing effort. At the same time, they consciously decided to keep a maximum of 60% of the budget for investments on board, covering mostly construction, modernisation and renewal of the fleet. Furthermore, while NGOs were calling for an increase to at least 25% of the budget allocated to control, monitoring, and data collection, MEPs choose to maintain the insufficient level voted by the Fisheries Committee, i.e. at least 15% of the budget.

The situation is particularly worrying in outermost regions [1] where a special regime has been voted to enable Member States to change the definition of small-scale fisheries. This means that any industrial fleet could be developed under the pretense of supporting small-scale fisheries. “This is outrageous: these areas are biodiversity hotspots but often lack proper fisheries management. This decision by Parliament opens the door to an even greater threat to their marine ecosystems, which is unacceptable in view of the many challenges faced by these coastal communitites” notes Jasmina Peri, Programme coordinator at BLOOM.

Last but not least, MEPs decided that transparency requirements with regards to the use of public monies and public decision-making should not be improved. “This is extremely concerning given the catastrophic results of today’s vote. This essentially means that MEPs want to fund the destruction of marine ecosystems and coastal economies, but without sufficient data to make them accountable. On the contrary, we argue that there cannot be any sustainable fisheries without full transparency” alerts Valérie Le Brenne, Project Manager at BLOOM.

This text will now be discussed by Member States (the Council of the EU) so as to produce their ‘General Approach’. A tripartite negotiation (the ‘Trilogue’) will then ensue between Council, the Parliament, and the Commission. More than ever, BLOOM remains mobilized and will continue to fight against this disastrous outcome so as to foster truly sustainable fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems.

The European Parliament plunges us into a dark future, as its Members chose to betray Europe’s international commitments. BLOOM will soon send a detailed analysis of the vote’s results, but citizens must remember this gloomy outcome just a few weeks before the European elections.

[1] Guadeloupe, La Réunion, Mayotte, French Guiana, Martinique, Saint-Martin (France); Madeira and Azores (Portugal); Canary Islands (Spain).


> Our recommendations for the MEPs

Before the vote scheduled on 4 April 2019 at the European Parliament on the 2021-2017 European Maritime and Fisheries Funds (EMFF), BLOOM called on the Members of the Parliament to follow key recommendations, which aimed to protect marine ecosystems and to eliminate the harmful subsidies that fuel overcapacity and overfishing, as mandated by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. These recommendations are listed below.

> See our Call To Action to the MEPs

We have asked MEPs to publicly commit to 6 key objectives to attain sustainable fisheries and protect the ocean.



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