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News|21 Apr, 2006

Subsidies putting European fishermen out of business

Cod in bucket on deep-sea trawler, North Atlantic Ocea

A new WWF report demonstrates that reducing the European Union’s Baltic fishing fleet could significantly improve the profitability of the fishing sector and support stock recovery within five years.

Stockholm, Sweden – A new WWF report reveals that European fishing subsidies risk unemployment for fishermen in the Baltic region.

The report — The Impact of the EU Structural Funds on the fleet and fish resources in the Baltic fisheries sector — demonstrates that reducing the EU Baltic fleet could significantly improve the profitability of the fishing sector and support stock recovery within five years.

The biggest problems facing the Baltic fisheries include the depleted state of cod stocks, with excessively high fishing mortality and the failure to rebuild stocks. Reduction of the fishing fleet should significantly help improve this situation, especially in the Polish fleet given that it accounts for 1/3 of cod catch.

However, there is strong interest from some EU Member States to make new public money available for the replacement of engines through the new European Fisheries Fund (EFF) — the instrument that will guide the distribution of subsidies for the fishing sector between 2007–13.

“If Ministers agree to fund new engines, it will be a waste of public money and escalate the demise of the fishing industry and the ocean environment,” said Markus Knigge, WWF’s Fisheries Subsidies Policy Officer.

“Ministers are systematically failing to implement the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. Reducing the size of the fleet is vital for the economic and environmental sustainability of Baltic fisheries.”

The Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG), the current funding programme for the fishery sector which runs until the end of the year, restricts funding for modernisation of engines. The possible reintroduction of such funding under the new EFF, supposedly based on the objectives of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, would be the latest in a series of backward steps for fisheries management in Europe.

“WWF is extremely concerned that the replacement of engines, even combined with a mandatory reduction in power for certain vessels, will lead to growing fishing mortality and environmental impacts,” says Lasse Gustavsson, Director of WWF’s Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

“This report clearly illustrates that reducing the capacity of the Baltic fleet will significantly improve the sustainability of fish stocks by better aligning fishing capacity with available resources.”

EU Fisheries Ministers will discuss fishing subsidies at a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on 25 April and from 22–23 May.

Related links
  • The Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) was established in 1993 to support restructuring of the EU fisheries sector to support social and economic development of fisheries dependent coastal regions. One of the objectives of the FIFG is to facilitate sustainable development of the fisheries sector through improving economic competitiveness while preserving rational fisheries, exploitation levels and protecting the environment. Despite these noble objectives, stock decline and overcapacity persist in EU waters, including in the Baltic Sea, with negative implications for the broader environment and fishing incomes.
  • Fishing quotas have failed to achieve a reduction in fishing mortality. One of the reasons for this is that the actual catch frequently exceeds the allowable quotas. Furthermore, these landings typically go unreported. It is therefore necessary to regulate fishing effort, either with or in addition to the quota management system. It is important to note however that effort regulation alone, such as days-at-sea limits, may prove ineffective for several reasons, including non-compliance. It is therefore necessary to bring fishing capacity into line with the state of fish resources. This requires the further withdrawal of some of the fishing fleet, while maintaining it to a level proportionate to the state of the resources.
For further information:

Markus Knigge, Fisheries Subsidies Policy Officer
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 2 743 8807

Lasse Gustavsson, Director
WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme
Tel: +46 70 105 30 55

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Last modified 10/01/20

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