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WWF calls on EU fisheries ministers to amend their position as they enter negotiations on the EMFF with the European Parliament and Commission

Reintroduction of harmful fisheries subsidies marks definitive backslide in EU leadership for our ocean

EUROPEAN UNION
Thursday, June 20, 2019, 16:00 (GMT + 9)

EU fisheries ministers have adopted a strikingly regressive position on the post-2020 funding strategy for the maritime and fisheries sector (EMFF). The partial General Approach, agreed on 18 June, endorses the reintroduction of harmful subsidies for vessels up to 24 metres in length. This type of financial support risks increasing the existing fisheries fleet’s activities in already heavily overfished waters, negatively impacting the marine environment and the long-term viability of the fisheries sector. The agreement directly undermines EU objectives to create sustainable business models for fishers and to end overfishing, as laid out in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) [1].

The proposed subsidies would encourage not only the purchasing of new fishing vessels, but also the modernisation of older ones for more powerful motors which will extend the reach of the EU fleet. As the fleet is, in some areas, already up to three times larger than sustainable fishing allows [2], this increase to EU fishing capacity will further endanger the health of our ocean and, as a consequence, the future of European fishers.

Dr Samantha Burgess, Head of Marine Policy at WWF European Policy Office said: “How can the EU hope to deliver sustainable seafood, support the long-term viability of coastal communities, and rebuild ocean health and fish populations with subsidies that will actively support overfishing? The €6 billion EMFF is comprised of public money, and these proposals are hugely out of step with current societal concern for the health of our ocean. The EU’s global influence means that this significant backwards step will spill over to the international community, making the EU Member States responsible for perpetuating unsustainable fishing practices worldwide.” 

Given the EU fleet’s historical and current records of overfishing in many areas, it is simply irresponsible for Member States to jeopardise the health of fish populations and thus the future of the very industry the EMFF is intended to support. Fishers will be the first to pay the price for an ocean devoid of life. It is shocking that the EU Council has not been more ambitious in its agreement, with such weak elements including the minimal CO₂ reduction target of just 15% per vessel being upgraded. 

WWF calls on EU fisheries ministers to amend their position as they enter negotiations on the EMFF with the European Parliament and Commission in the coming months. The agreed final text of the EMFF Regulation must not endorse the renewal and modernisation of the overall profitable EU fishing fleet, but instead invest in the protection and restoration of life in our ocean, and support fishers whose practices have low or no impact on the environment. The EU and its Member States must steer public resources to deliver a healthy and resilient ocean for citizens and economies of both present and future generations.

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