Oceana Study Reveals Billions in Hidden Fisheries Subsidies: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Author: Angela Pauly
Date: July 8, 2013



Once again, we’ve uncovered a disturbing amount of hidden subsidies to the EU’s fishing sector. You may remember in 2011, we calculated that a staggering 3.3 billion Euros in subsidies had gone from the EU to its Member State industries in just one year (2009).

This year, we decided to take a look at state aid – that is, the amount granted by individual member States to their own fishing sectors, in addition to the amount they receive in EU funding.

4.9 billion Euros

That’s how much they have given out since 2000. We combed through all the subsidies declared by Member States as having been allocated to their fishing industries and categorized them into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  The results were not pretty.

Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe: “Public funding should be used for the public good – while that seems obvious to most of us, it doesn’t seem to register with Member States when it comes to funding the fishing industry. Over the past 13 years only 1% of state aid subsidies have gone to directly benefit the very environment and resource that the industry relies on. When you consider the poor state of EU fish stocks and the degradation of the marine environment, and look at the fact that 65% of these subsidies are feeding into these very problems, one cannot help but be outraged.”

The big spenders are Spain, France, Italy and Ireland – which account for almost 75% percent of the total amount of allocated state aid. 

Here are a couple of excerpts, but I suggest you click through to our fact sheet and have a look at what we found:

  • Worryingly, 34% percent of all the funds declared were marked as general aid – which means there is no way to know who they went to and for what. So much for transparency…
  • Ireland gave 3 times more state aid to its sector than it received from the EU.
  • 30% of the 663 million allocated by France to its sector were harmful to the environment. 42% went to “general aid” and therefore cannot be evaluated by us.
  • Spain gave out the vast majority of state aid subsidies, totaling over 1.9 billion euros. 48% were harmful to the environment, nothing was allocated to measures beneficial to the environment.

On Wednesday there is a decisive vote taking place in the European Parliament – they have a chance to prove they want to make a difference.  Unfortunately, we are hearing that several want to reintroduce several harmful subsidies that were banned as far back as 2002 – including money to rebuild boats, which would increase the capacity of an already massively oversized fleet. We are doing everything in our power to make sure they know that we won’t let them get away with it.

Click here for our fact sheet and infographics.