European citizens: make your voices heard on harmful fisheries subsidies!

Today, Tuesday 1 October 2019, the environmental organisations BirdLife Europe, BLOOM, ClientEarth and Seas At Risk launch an online platform — iPoliticsEU — enabling European citizens to call on key decision-makers for the elimination of harmful fisheries subsidies in the European Union. This citizen movement is all the more important as a crucial debate on the next European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) will take place on the 2nd of October in the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries.

A dramatic step backward

Current negotiations on the future EMFF threaten to annihilate 20 years of slow, but positive, progress. This fund will determine the allocation of more than six billion euros of public money to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and to the protection of the marine environment for the period 2021-2027. Both the former European Parliament and Council (i.e. all Member States’ fisheries ministers) have decided to reintroduce and to maintain harmful subsidies at EU-level a few months ago. Among other things, both institutions want to re-introduce subsidies for the construction of new fishing vessels, although the EU banned these subsidies 15 years ago. Should the EMFF be adopted on this basis, this would dramatically increase overfishing in EU waters and beyond.

The EU must respect its international commitments

Incidentally, adopting these positions would also hamper all international efforts to ban such harmful subsidies at the global level. In stark contrast with the positions of the former Parliament and Council, fisheries scientists and economists clearly demand that EU public subsidies be allocated in such a way that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are fulfilled, in particular target 14.6 requiring the elimination by 2020 of harmful fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. They recommend allocating “a generous slice of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for 2021–27 […] to environmental protection, research, control and data collection”. If EU decision-makers were to disregard these science-based recommendations, the reintroduction of harmful subsidies in the EMFF will severely undermine EU international credibility and jeopardise negotiations currently taking place at the World Trade Organisation to implement SDG 14.6.

Citizens can lobby for a radical change

It is high time European citizens took a stance on this critical issue and called on key EU decision makers to ban harmful fisheries subsidies. European citizens’ money should not be used to finance the destruction of our ocean and our coastal economies, and citizens need to make their voices heard. Thanks to the iPoliticsEU online platform, they will be able to send emails and alert key EU decision-makers on social media. This is all the more important as a crucial debate on the next EMFF will take place on the 2nd of October in the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries. Preparations for the post-2020 EU budget provide the opportunity for the EU to play a leadership role by eliminating the most harmful subsidies and by redirecting all remaining funds to support enhanced control and monitoring, and rebuilding healthier marine ecosystems. There cannot be sustainable fisheries and a healthy ocean if the EU maintains economic incentives to fish beyond ecological limits.

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