EU subsidies fuelling fisheries distress
Brussels, Belgium – A new study, Fuelling the threat for sustainable Fisheries in Europe, released today by WWF shows the dramatic impacts of fuel subsidies, granted by EU Member States to the fishing industry, on fish stocks and marine ecosystems.
Apart from being a serious threat to the marine environment, fuel subsidies — either given in the form of fuel tax exemptions or direct grants — also have damaging economic and social consequences, concludes the study.
Fishing boats can spend up to 60 per cent of their operational costs on fuel, and up to 2000 litres per km are burnt in some European waters. By making fuel for fishing vessels cheaper, fuel subsidies encourage fishermen to fish more and longer.
Consequently, they contribute to overfishing.
The study also indicates that fuel subsidies encourage fishermen to continue using destructive fishing techniques, such as beam trawling, rather than investing in new energy-efficient and less damaging techniques.
When it comes to the economical impact, fuel subsidies distort competition among Member States. Because they offer different subsidies schemes to their fishing industry, some national fleets are able to sell fish at lower prices due to lower operational costs.
Socially destructive, fuel subsidies promote the use of energy intensive fishing techniques that imply smaller crews onboard. Therefore, they can directly impact communities that critically depend on jobs in the fishing sector.
“Fuel subsidies do not benefit anyone. They are a huge obstacle to sustainable fisheries in Europe and a wasteful burn-out of tax-payers money,” says Markus Knigge, Fisheries Subsidies Policy Officer at WWF.
On 23 July, the European Commission plans to adopt a regulation presented in 2006, the so-called De Minimis regulation, which proposes additional fuel aid to finance operational costs. In its recent review of the EU Environment Action Programme, the Commission, however, commits itself to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies.
“If the Commission adopts the De Minimis regulation, it would seriously contradict itself,” adds Knigge.
“It does not make sense to announce the elimination of environmentally harmful subsidies on the one hand and to create a new damaging incentive on the other hand.”
WWF is calling on the EU to stick to its promises and to phase out all environmentally harmful subsidies.
For further information:
Markus Knigge, Fisheries Subsidies Policy Officer
WWF European Policy Office
Tel +32 (0)2 7408 807
Caroline Alibert, Communications Officer
WWF European Policy Office
Tel +32 (0)2 7400 936