The Beacon

Blog Tags: Fishing Subsidies

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: EU Fishing Subsidies


Yesterday, Oceana released the results of a six-month study on European Union (EU) subsidies to the fishing sector since 2000, and the results were shocking. Our report showed that 4.9 billion euros in subsidies were granted in the form of “state aid” for the fishing sectors, with most of this €4.9 billion ($6.3 billion) fueling overfishing and environmentally harmful practices. Our estimates show that of this €4.9 billion, only 1% can be identified as beneficial to the marine environment. To add insult to grave environmental injury, despite the EU’s commitment to transparency, we found that information on how tax payer money is being spent and allocated to these fishing subsidies is both scarce and unclear.  


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New Report: EU Taxpayers Fund Overfishing

Trawlers in the Mediterranean. © Oceana/Juan Cuetos

Oceana released a new report today outlining the shocking amount of subsidies that pour into Europe’s fishing industry. European taxpayers are essentially paying for overfishing – to the tune of 3.3 billion Euros ($4.6 billion) in 2009.

Here are some other stunning facts from the report:

  • Oceana’s analysis found that a total of at least €3.3 billion of subsidies were available to the European Union fishing sector in 2009. This is more than three times quoted public figures, which only reference the European Fisheries Fund.
  • Total subsidies to the fishing sector are equivalent to 50 percent of the value of the total fish catch by the European Union in the same year ( €6.6 billion)
  • Spain, France, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Italy received the most fishing subsidies. 
  • 13 European Union countries had more fishing subsidies than the value of the landings of fish in their ports.
  • Europe is one of the world’s top three subsidizers, along with China and Japan.
  • As a result of these major subsidies, the European Union now has a fishing fleet that is two to three times larger than what is needed to fish sustainably.
  • More than two-thirds of these subsidies have the ability to enhance fishing capacity and promote overfishing.

Check out the full report and pass it on!


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US and EU Reach Accord on Pirate Fishing

Trawl nets containing uprooted gorgonian corals. © Oceana/Juan Cuetos

Today, the U.S. and E.U. signed a historic agreement to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. These activities are responsible for most illegal fish on the market, some of the most destructive fishing practices in use, and a loss of as much as $23 billion in revenue for legal American fishermen.

The agreement builds on measures each side has already enacted, such as an American moratorium on driftnet fishing and European import processes that require seafood certification. Additionally, two bills currently in the Senate would ban mislabeling seafood and put government money to reducing seafood fraud.

News of the US-EU agreement comes on the heels of a new study recommending that industrial deep-sea fishing be banned. Many deep-sea fish, such as orange roughy and Chilean sea bass, have long lifespans and low birthrates that make them highly susceptible to overfishing. The study also cites the harmful effects of bottom-trawlers, which both wipe out entire local populations of the target fish species and bulldoze long-lived deep sea corals.

Oceana board member and renowned fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly told the Washington Post that the costs of deep-sea fishing far outweigh the benefits.

“It’s a waste of resources, it’s a waste of biodiversity, it’s a waste of everything,” Pauly said. “In the end, there is nothing left.”


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Oceana Hosts WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and Oceana's senior vice president for North America, Mike Hirshfield. © Oceana/Michael King

Oceana welcomed a very distinguished visitor yesterday. We hosted the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, along with representatives of 10 major U.S. environmental organizations in a roundtable discussion at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. The roundtable focused on promoting an open and active dialogue about trade and the environment and the WTO’s ability to address both.

The WTO is currently engaged in a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of the Doha Round. These negotiations are historic because they are the first time that conservation considerations, in addition to commerce priorities, have led to the launch of a specific trade negotiation.

Fishing subsidies promote overfishing by pushing fleets to fish longer, harder and farther away than would otherwise be economically feasible. Overfishing subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually, an amount equal to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world catch.


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UN Report: No Improvement in Global Overfishing

The world’s appetite for fish continues to grow. Fish stocks, though? Not so much. 

That’s the bottom line from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which released its latest State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture report yesterday. Global per capita consumption of fish reached a "new all-time high" in 2008.

Here are some of the facts from the report:

  • Fish consumption increased to an estimated 17.1 kilograms per person in 2008, up from 16.9 kilograms in 2007.
  • Fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of an estimated 540 million people, roughly 8 percent of the world's population.
  • Much of the increase is due to fish farming, which is set to overtake fisheries as the main source of seafood.
  • In the early 1950s, aquaculture production was less than one million tonnes per year; in 2008 it was 52.5 million tonnes worth $98.4 billion US, the report authors said.
  • There has been no improvement in the level of global fish stocks -- the overall percentage of overfished, depleted or recovering stocks is expected to be slightly higher than in 2006.
  • Slightly more than half of the world's fisheries were estimated to be "fully exploited," meaning their current catches are "at or close to their maximum sustainable productions, with no room for further expansion."
  • About 32 per cent of world fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering and need to be rebuilt, the report said.

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Oceana Hosts WTO Forum on Fishing Subsidies

From left: Oceana's Courtney Sakai, Dr. Rainer Froese, Dr. Anthony Charles and U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Peter Allgeier

On Friday Oceana hosted a panel discussion at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum in Geneva. The session focused on global fisheries depletion and how the WTO can contribute to solving global environmental challenges.

During the session, moderated by former U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Peter Allgeier, leading international fisheries scientists Dr. Rainer Froese and Dr. Anthony Charles discussed the implications of global environmental issues on the multilateral trading system and the role and responsibility of the WTO to help stop overfishing.


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Ted Danson to Testify on Fishing Subsidies

Actor and Oceana board member Ted Danson will testify before a Congressional subcommittee hearing tomorrow about the negative impact of fishing subsidies on the oceans.

In the hearing, entitled Marine Wealth: Promoting Conservation and Advancing American Exports, Danson will describe how government subsidies negatively affect the oceans and global seafood market, and he’ll explain why sustainable fishing is necessary to preserve ocean health and jobs.


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Letter to the G-20: Stop Fishing Subsidies

As I told you recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the TED Mission Blue voyage to the Galapagos Islands, led by legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle. I was one of seven “idea champions” on board, and this was my idea: We can tackle the problem of overfishing by curbing fishing subsidies.

Although 75 percent of the world's fisheries are now either overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation, many governments continue to provide huge subsidies -- about $20 billion annually -- to their fishing sectors.

The fleets are fishing at a level that’s as much as 2.5 times more than what’s required for sustainable catch levels.

I feel strongly that halting fishing subsidies is one of the single greatest actions that can be taken to protect the world’s oceans. And I was hoping others on board would agree with me. Canvassing on the ship with a clipboard and a pencil, I felt like I was back in school, collecting signatures in the cafeteria.

And it worked.


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Oceana, Mission Blue Call on G-20 to Stop Overfishing Subsidies

Leading up to the G-20 Summit in Toronto next month, today Oceana and TED’s Mission Blue delivered a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on G-20 nations to stop the expansion of worldwide fishing subsidies, and to prioritize a strong outcome in the World Trade Organization (WTO) fisheries subsidies negotiations.


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