Wide open to abuse: the Common Fisheries Policy

Publication - October 2, 2011
The future of Europe’s seas is in jeopardy under an ageing 30-year-old Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Corrupted by greedy stakeholders, cynical political bargaining and illegal conduct, this CFP has failed to achieve its core objective: sustainable fisheries in a healthy marine environment, supporting economically viable industry and employment. Instead, overfishing and environmental destruction has become endemic, with subsidies and quotas too often benefitting the most destructive companies rather than more sustainable, small-scale fishermen.

Today, according to the EU Commissioner for Fisheries, three out of four stocks are overfished; including 82% of Mediterranean stocks and 63% of Atlantic stocks. Illegal fishing is considered one of the most serious threats to the sustainable management of fish stocks.

Amidst this European environmental, social and economic debacle, the industrial-scale sector of the Spanish fishing fleet plays a pivotal role. This investigation shows how public subsidies are allocated to a cosy network of Spanish fishing companies and operators, well-known for engaging in organis ed illegal fishing activities. It exposes the extent and ease to which the CFP is being abused by a powerful minority. And it shows that not only is Spain the largest recipient of EU fishing subsidies, but that this powerful minority is reaping the disproportionate share of the benefits.

This Greenpeace investigation exposes a failure of governance and raises questions about the extent of political influence of some less than savoury elements of the Spanish fishing fleet, with Europe-wide implications. The Spanish government systematically favours industrial-scale fishing operations over small-scale and artisanal fishing fleets that, if nurtured, would not only offer greater employment, but far more potential for sustainable fishing practices.

Wide open to abuse: the Common Fisheries Policy