European ministers want to continue bankrolling overfishing

Press release - October 23, 2012
Luxembourg / Brussels – Greenpeace has condemned EU ministers for selling out to the short-term economic interests of the industrial fishing industry, instead of putting Europe’s fisheries onto a path of recovery. Many parts of the EU fishing fleet are already able to catch two to three times more than is sustainable, but ministers meeting in Luxembourg have signalled that they want to continue funnelling subsidies into the modernisation of vessels and their engines.

Vicious circle. Greenpeace activists paint the side of a Dutch super trawler in the Netherlands in December 2011. The Frank Bonefaas, one of Europe's most environmentally destructive fishing vessels, received €24,000,000 in subsidies.


Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: "There is already not enough fish for all the boats out there, so it makes no sense at all for governments to continue throwing subsidies at the EU's oversized fleet. Wasting taxpayers' money on what causes the problem in the first place is ridiculous: it is like paying someone to rob you. The worst thing is that the industrial fleet, which causes the most damage to our seas, is likely to swallow up most of the cash, with sustainable fishermen losing out. Taxpayers' money would be much better spent to protect marine life, improve data collection on fish stocks, and to better monitor the fishing fleet."

Ministers are expected to forge agreements that will, for instance, allow subsidies for vessel modernisation, new engines and to cover losses incurred by fishermen as a result of temporary fishery closures, such as when a stock has been critically overfished. A large number of countries are also pushing for subsidised construction of new vessels. Such investments will almost invariably maintain and increase the fishing capacity of the EU fleet and hamper efforts to eliminate fleet overcapacity and destructive fisheries.

The deal also foresees publicly funded vessel scrapping schemes, which allow vessel owners to destroy their vessels in return for cash. These schemes will only work if they are targeted towards the decommissioning of the most oversized and destructive elements of the fleet, said Greenpeace. Fishermen who receive scrapping funds should also not be allowed to invest in a new vessel.

Newly released data shows that between 1994 and 2006, Spain (83%), France (8%), Portugal (4%), Germany (3%) and the UK (0.1%) spent over €266 million to build and modernise their distant-water fishing fleets. Almost 70% of the money was used to build new boats, many of which were also upgraded [1].

Note to editors:
[1] A set of data tables on subsidies was released by the European Commission after a public information request. These can be obtained from Greenpeace. Some of this data has also been released on

Saskia Richartz – Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director: +32 (0)495 290028,
Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 2741911,

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