EU ‘sustainable’ fisheries Fund reintroduces harmful subsidies and ignores biodiversity crisis

Posted on 04 December 2020

New EMFAF would be a fatal blow to sustainable fishing and healthy seas
The EU Council and the European Parliament have agreed an informal deal on the distribution of the €6.108 billion budget of the European Marine, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) for 2021-2027.

While it aims to promote European fisheries and aquaculture, as well as provide support during times of crisis, financial commitments that will increase the fleet’s capacity, such as by financing upgrades to vessels and supporting first-time vessel buyers with limited restrictions are a fatal blow to securing sustainable fishing activities and supporting healthy seas in the EU. As a consequence, the future of European fishers is under threat. In some areas, the EU fishing fleet is already up to three times larger than sustainable fishing allows.

Anna Holl-Buhl, Senior Fisheries Policy Advisor  at WWF-Germany said, "Today's deal sets the EU back at least 16 years, as most harmful fisheries subsidies were abolished across the EU in 2004. In addition to other measures, the use of public funds for purchases of new engines and fishing vessels up to 24 metres long means the EU will cement the continuation of overfishing, putting marine biodiversity at risk, ignoring its own Green Deal and undermining internationally agreed sustainability goals. WWF therefore urges the EU to withdraw the file to protect our seas and coastal communities.”

Today’s agreement has overturned the European Parliament’s vote from last April, which called for at least 25% of the EMFF to go towards protection and restoration of the marine environment, and ignores the European Court of Auditors' warning to increase funding for marine conservation measures. Instead of investing in healthy seas and fish stocks, the economic basis for the fishing sector, the EU is accepting that fleet overcapacity and overfishing will be encouraged. 

Ending overfishing is one of the major challenges to which the EU has committed itself under the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The reintroduction of harmful fisheries subsidies and the resulting increase in fleet capacity not only goes against this commitment, it risks undermining the EU’s credibility at the World Trade Organization, where it is engaged in intensive negotiations on the prohibition of harmful fisheries subsidies that contribute to fleet overcapacity and overfishing.

The agreement announced today is due to be formally endorsed by the Council's Committee of the Permanent Representatives (COREPER), and will then be submitted for final adoption by the Council and the European Parliament. WWF calls on the European Commission to urgently withdraw the EMFAF before the measures come into force.
Re-introduction of fisheries subsidies will commit EU seas to further depletion of fish, dooming fishers’ futures
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