On 27 April, the European Parliament took a step 10 years backwards when it  voted in favour of  a resolution to allow EU and national subsidies for the construction of new fishing boats in the outermost regions (1). Was this an act of naïve ignorance, pure politics or a deliberate intention to worsen overfishing in EU waters? It’s a bad sign any which way you look at it.

While the vote was presented as a desperately-needed safety measure for small-scale fishers in outlying areas, it downplayed the value of significant support already available through European Maritime Fishing Fund (EMFF) funds and naively ignored the fact that re-opening a firmly closed door to subsidies (since 2004) could lead the EU further down the road of overfishing that we are already struggling to come back from. It also undermines the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – specifically SDG14 – and the EU’s negotiations in the World Trade Organisation to prohibit subsidies that contribute to overcapacity or overfishing.

If this wasn’t bad enough, a leaked email from a member of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) referred to Emmanuel Macron’s then narrowing margin in the French Presidential elections, blatantly asking their MEPs to vote for the resolution or risk losing political ground.

Rapporteur Ulrike Rodust summarised the disappointing vote:

“I have tried to work out the best proposals for a possible solution. And I deplore the fact that the amendment has raised hopes which in my opinion cannot be fulfilled. This result does not correspond to the coherence of the Common Fisheries Policy and the European Maritime Fisheries Fund, respectively, and I doubt that it will pass legal scrutiny. Emphasis should be put on the aim of the Common Fisheries Policy to reach sustainable stocks and fisheries”.

Whichever way you look at it, the European Parliament’s vote to reintroduce subsidies for new fishing boats sends a deplorable sign to the rest of the world that they aren’t really serious about ending decades of overfishing and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Campaign Manager

Notes:

The EU’s nine Outermost Regions include parts of France (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion, Martinique, Mayotte and Saint-Martin), Portugal (Madeira and Azores) and Spain (Canary Islands).  Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union sets out their defining features, which include remoteness, insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate, and economic dependence on a few products.

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