Public subsidies

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal on the ocean and seas (SDG 14) explicitly calls for the elimination by 2020 of subsidies that contribute to overfishing, overcapacity, and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Approximately US$18 billion are spent annually on harmful fisheries subsidies, while at the same time the international community is struggling to find funds in support of sustainable fisheries and a restored, productive, clean and healthy ocean.

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If only a portion of this amount were spent on the implementation of SDG 14 targets, it would set the ocean and humankind on the path of a win-win scenario: more biomass to fish, more food safety, less public expenditures, more socio-economic benefits and political stability.

In contrast, there will be no sustainable fishing for as long as financial incentives are provided to fleets to overfish. Turning off the financial tap that encourages destructive and unsustainable fishing operations, at both private and public levels, is paramount to any successful domestic or international management of resources.

Although we believe the financial sector should be made accountable for harmful investments made in the fishing sector, BLOOM has decided to focus on public subsidies only, and to work with governments and administrations around the world to ensure that financial aid provided to the fishing sector contributes to better management, enforcement and data collection, not to the pursuit of unviable fishing segments or operations.

BLOOM has developed expertise and capacity on the specific topic of public subsidies. We address this issue from three approaches — which we believe complement each other — to achieve the same goal: the elimination of harmful fisheries subsidies as mandated by SDG 14.


While studying European subsidies in the fishing sector, BLOOM has uncovered a string of cases of fraud in the allocation of these funds. We have begun judicial measures to recover public money and put an end to this impunity. Here are some of our latest actions.

March 2021: With the help of BLOOM, the European platform of small-scale fishers LIFE (Low Impact Fishers of Europe) along with 36 French, Belgian, English and Dutch fishers, have requested that the public subsidies that financed the development of electric fishing be reimbursed, via a complaint addressed to the European Commission’s competition department.

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. Click here to view the full report: “Sustainable objectives and commitments deceived by fisheries subsidies for ‘temporary cessations’ in times of COVID“.

July 2022: BLOOM and Mediapart revealed the results of an exclusive investigation: 95% of Dutch vessels that received public subsidies to help weather the COVID-19 crisis because of “temporary cessation of fishing activities” cheated the subsidy allocation criteria in some way or another. The conclusion is that the Dutch government is closing its eyes on a fraud to the EU’s financial interests and giving its industrial fishing fleet a major financial advantage.  BLOOM has asked the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to open a judicial enquiry into this matter. An investigation is underway.

March 2023: On BLOOM’s initiative, the association LIFE and a coalition of fishers filed an appeal against the European Commission before the Court of Justice of the European Union for ‘failure to act’ and ‘poor administration’ in the European electric fishing scandal. The European Commission has refused to investigate the complaint filed by fishers in spring 2021 to obtain the reimbursement of illegal subsidies allocated to electric fishing.


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