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News|17 Jun, 2009

Subsidies contribute to harming Baltic Sea instead of saving it


The majority of subsidies given to Baltic Sea fisheries and agriculture have a negative impact on the health of the sea, a new WWF report says.

Some 14 billion euros of taxpayers’ money is distributed to these sectors in the region every year. But according to WWF at least 84 percent of this cash pile is being used in an environmentally harmful way or instead of serving the public good is supporting purely profit related activities.

A previous Swedish Environment Protection Agency showed that 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 per year.

“This shows that we have enough money to save the Baltic Sea,” says Lasse Gustavsson, the CEO of 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.

Both of these documents state 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.

“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 Lasse Gustavsson.

”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”.

According to WWF 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 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.

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