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News|15 Jun, 2009

New WWF report states there is enough money to save the Baltic Sea four times over.

A new report published by WWF today shows that despite good ambitions and some improvements, the lion’s share of public subsidies to the agriculture and fisheries sectors around the Baltic Sea still have a negative impact on the health of the sea. The report provides a detailed analysis of various forms of subsidies that have an influence on the state of the Baltic Sea. All in all, more than 14 billion euros of taxpayers’ money are distributed to the agriculture and fisheries sectors in the Baltic Sea region every year. Of this, at least 84 percent of the subsidies can be classified as either environmentally harmful, or not being used for public goods.

The report refers to a recent study by the Swedish Environment Protection Agency in cooperation with researchers from all around the Baltic Sea that looked at the latest and most advanced research on the costs of action in the Baltic Sea. In this study, the minimum cost to reach the environmental targets for eutrophication and fisheries in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan is calculated to be approximately 2.6 billion euros per year.

“This shows that we have enough money to save the Baltic Sea”, says Lasse Gustavsson, CEO WWF Sweden. “Just the money provided to the agriculture and fisheries sectors in the form of misdirected subsidies equals four times the amount of money needed to save the Baltic Sea.”

Parallel to the report on subsidies, WWF released its vision statements for the future of European agricultural policy and the European fisheries policy. A common message in both of these statements is the importance that public funding should only be used to pay for those goods and services that benefit us all, but are not paid for by the market; services like the sustainable management of common resources, biodiversity protection or the maintenance of cultural values. These statements also present detailed recommendations for how this can be achieved.

“The distribution of subsidies today reflects the outcome of political negotiations rather than an objective assessment of the needs of these sectors, the appropriate use of public funding in response to these needs, or a consideration of the amount of funding required”, says Pauli Merriman, Director, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. ”Delivering public goods should be the primary purpose of public funding, and this is likely to require substantial investments in the Baltic Sea region also in the future”.

The most urgent measure to solve the fisheries crisis is to bring down fishing over-capacity to a sustainable level. Today subsidies are used both to scrap vessels and to support increased fishing. The WWF report shows that the cost to bring down over-capacity would be less than zero – it would be a net gain for society.

In order to put agriculture policy on a more sustainable track the WWF vision states the importance of working in partnership with environmental NGOs, farmers’ representatives and others to develop a new Common Environment and Rural Policy for implementation in 2019.

“It would be very unfair to blame the individual farmer or fisherman for the situation that has arisen,” says Pauli Merriman.”They operate in a system that forces them to compete and increase their revenues and yields, without setting sufficient and equal demands on environmental performance. Any single farmer or fisherman, who sets higher standards than others, may immediately become less competitive. The problem is a political problem that can only be solved on the political level by a fundamental reform of the EU policies, including a re-orientation of the subsidies.”

The subsidies report makes a calculation of how much each taxpayer around the Baltic Sea is contributing to eutrophication and overfishing through misguided subsidies.

The summary report and the vision papers are available at

For more information, please contact:

Lasse Gustavsson, CEO WWF Sweden
Tel. +46 701 053 055

Pauli Merriman, Director WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme
Tel. +46 767 886 185

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