Slim majority for vessel construction aid in fisheries committee

With a slim majority the fisheries committee in the European Parliament today (10 July) approved subsidies for vessel construction and engine replacement. But MEPs say these proposals are unlikely to get support in plenary.

In the vote on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), the fisheries committee approved subsidies for:

  • Fleet renewal, i.e. the construction of small scale-scale and coastal vessels, replacing vessels older than 35 years (12 votes in favour, 11 against). Aid for the construction of new vessels was abolished during the 2002 reform of the CFP.
  • Engine replacement for all vessels (14+, 10-). A vote to restrict this aid to small-scale vessels was defeated with 12 votes against 11.
  • Transfer of ownership of a business, up to €100 000 (13+, 11-).
  • Start-up support for young fishermen to buy a boat for up to €100.000 (18+, 3-).
  • Temporary cessation of fishing.
  • Storage aid at least the end of the period, i.e. 2020.

In the final vote, 13 MEPs voted in favour of the report, 8 voted against and 4 abstained.

The Committee declined the request of the rapporteur, Alain Cadec (EPP, France), to enter immediate negotiations with the Lithuanian presidency. The European Parliament plenary will therefore vote on this file in October (according to the committee’s press release) before negotiations with the Council.

The total sum of the EMFF over seven years will be 5.45 billion euro, according to the recent agreement on the multiannual financial framework.

Alain Cadec

Alain Cadec

Alain Cadec: “Real measures to reduce capacity”
The rapporteur Alain Cadec welcomed the result of the vote, in which all but one of the compromises(comp 50) were adopted.

At a press conference, he emphasised that the money for fleet renewal (vessel construction) would only be available for a part of the fishing fleet: replacing vessels older than 35 years, smaller than 12 meters, with an obligation to reduce the vessel’s capacity by 40 percent.

“This is responsible fleet renewal. Furthermore, you may only receive money to replace your engine if you reduce capacity. These are the only real measures in the EMFF and the basic regulation in the fisheries reform to reduce capacity in the EU fishing fleet,” Alain Cadec said.

Reactions from other MEPs
Critics argue that the real engine power installed on board is almost impossible to control. Even if a new engine is less powerful, it will not necessarily translate into a reduction of the vessel’s ability to catch fish. The European Court of Auditors recently stated that vessels with fuel efficient engines still have an incentive to increase their fishing effort, for instance by spending more hours at sea.

“I believe we can reverse the result on both vessel construction and engine replacement in plenary,” Nils Torvalds, shadow rapporteur of the ALDE group, said after the vote. He was one of eight MEPs who voted against the report.

“I’m disappointed & frustrated by today’s vote on fishing fund. Public money for building boats is not a solution. We will fight on in plenary”, Julie Girling, shadow rapporteur of the ECR group, tweeted.

The Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur Raül Romeva said in a statement that he expects “to correct some of the worst outcomes” in plenary.

Comments & press releases from other organisations
Markus Knigge, advisor to OCEAN2012: “Attempts to circumvent a full plenary vote were rejected, so now all 766 members of the European Parliament will have the opportunity to reverse the Committee’s vote and demonstrate to citizens that the EU is determined to recover fish stocks and the viability of the sector.”

Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz: “Public subsidies are hard to come-by in the midst of an economic slump and this decision will not benefit the public, the economic prospects of the fishing sector, or the recovery of our seas.

Claire Nouvian, Bloom: “This is an absurd and counter-productive measure which has been criticized by major institutions and in particular by the French Court of Auditors whose very severe report on French subsidies to the fishing sector was revealed on July 4th 2013 by the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur. If this harsh criticism of State aid had been made public in good time, instead of being buried as it was, it would have been much more difficult for the French right-wing Committee rapporteur Alain Cadec or socialist MEP Isabelle Thomas to defend such short-sighted measures.”

The Fisheries Secretariat: One step forward, two steps backward.

Tony Long, Director of the WWF European Policy Office: “As this now passes to the European Parliament plenary we call on all MEPs to end this situation where too many boats are chasing too few fish and to reallocate funds to promote fish stock recovery and habitat restoration”.

Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe: “Choosing to fund new boats to the benefit of a few operators, instead of spending public money on measures that will benefit the public good shows how disconnected Members of the Fisheries Committee are from reality”.

Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director, wrote ahead of the vote: “Re-focusing subsidies that were previously used to expand fleets, modernize vessels and provide cheap fuel, into programmes that support sustainable growth is the key to success and can enhance the rebuilding of fish stocks by for example improving fisheries management and strengthening monitoring, control and enforcement.”

Seas at risk: Disastrous vote on EU subsidies

Johanna Karhu, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer at Birdlife Europe: ”We are dismayed to see the European Parliament’s position on promoting overfishing by allowing the continuation of perverse subsidies.”

Javier Garat (Europêche) and Giampaolo Buonfiglio (Copa-Cogeca): “The scope of the article [32b, measures to support the modernisation of the fleet] is subject to too strong conditionality. They are insufficient to back those fishermen who desire to make this kind of investment, since financial support shall not exceed 15% of the total investment and € 80,000 and will only be applicable to vessels over 35 years old engaged in small-scale and coastal fisheries.”

Axel Naver

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