Stop the European Fishing Subsidies Madness

The Case Against Returning to A Failed Fishing Past

Charles Clover’s weekly column in the Sunday Times today (30 June 2013) is well worth reading.

The firewall makes it hard to see so for a short while I have added transcribed it below.

Charles is no friend of euro-madness and financial waste. So, the European Fisheries Committee’s moves to increase subsidies and pay for boat building at taxpayers expense must have made his (and any taxpayers) blood boil.

French Conservatives

That the move is being led by a French Conservative (Alain Cadec MEP), who makes George Galloway seem like a New Labour high priest  (really political and economic logic are thrown upside down in Brussels)  just adds more comedy to the tragedy.

Social Democrats Back Big Spending Conservatives

The Social Democrat Group have worked out a compromise with Comrade Cadec. This means it look certain that on the 10 th July the fisheries committee will back taxpayers paying for fishing boats.

No Luddites Here

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind if new fishing boats are being built. Indeed, I think it will be a good thing. I don’t mind as long as taxpayers don’t pay for the financial investments of skippers. If things go well, fishermen and fish prosper. If bad economic signals lead people to over invest in new trawlers when the economics and fish stocks don’t balance, fishermen and stocks, and all too often taxpayers who would pay for the building and vessel buy back at taxpayers expense, loose out.

10 July

It will be interesting to see if the UK Conservatives (Struan Stevenson & Julie Girling), Unionists (Diane Dodds), Nationalists (Ian Hudghton) and UKIP (John Stuart Agnew) will vote against Amendments 2 & 20 on 10 July. The Liberal Democrats (Chris Davies) I am sure will oppose this waste.

It will also be interesting to see if the Fisheries Committee allows the whole of the European Parliament vote on the agreed report before they enter into talks with the Council.

Comrade Cadec is desperate to avoid getting a mandate from the whole Parliament. He does not have to, but it is usual to. He is sure that if he does the whole Parliament, less concerned about supporting the financial aid of Brittany and the like, will strike down the worse excesses of corporate welfarism French style.

Opponents of real reform of the CFP were humiliated by the full Parliament. They’ll do anything to avoid their eagerness to spend taxpayers money being called out and shut down.


Here is the piece:


S&D and EPP Unite to Back Fishing Boat Building

An Unwelcome Flashback 

Sometimes I may think the era of soviet era economics has died. Unfortunately, I am all too often proven to be wrong.

I have been working on an off on fisheries policy for over 20 years. I got involved because as a pro-European it seemed to be one of the more mad EU policies. European taxpayers paying private business to go and fish in other countries waters always seemed a bit mad to me. Paying them to build boats at taxpayers expense seemed straight wrong. But, over time, some of those silly policies have been reduced or got rid off.

A Return to the 80s

 On Wednesday 10th July the EPP (led by France) and S&D Group have joined together to allow trawlers to be built at taxpayers expense. This will be a step back in time to before the last reform!

You can find the proposals @

The proposals seemed set to be adopted. The EPP with the S&D dominate the fishing committee.


Here’s an explanation of what they are supporting.

By doing this the MEPs will shift money that would have otherwise gone to support  helping the fleet adapt to the reform of the new CFP to building new trawlers.


Compromise Amendments  2 & 27.

Building New Trawlers

Comp AM 2 would change the definition of small scale vessels. Under today’s legislation a small scale vessels is a vessel below 12 meters  length and without towed gear (so without trawl, long line etc ). Usually these vessels have set nets or pots or angles and therefore less impact on environment.

Under the new proposal in Comp AM 2 an 11 meter trawler would also be defined as small scale.

<Amend>Amendment                <NumAm>2</NumAm>


<AuNomDe>on behalf of the EPP Group, ALDE Group, ECR Group</AuNomDe>

</RepeatBlock-By><Compromise>Compromise amendment replacing Amendments 41, 42, 470, 471, 472, 473, 474, 480, 481, 483, 484, 485, 489, 491, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 502, 503, 505, 508, 509, 511, 512, 513, 515; 516, 518, 520, 522, 525, REGI 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40; ENVI 44, 45, 46, 47; EMPL 40</Compromise>

<DocAmend>Proposal for a regulation</DocAmend>

<Article>Article 3</Article>





(17) ‘small scale and coastal fishing’ means fishing carried out by fishing vessels:

– of an overall length of less than 12 metres;

– whose power is under 120 Kilowatt;

– which do not use towed gear as listed in Table 3 Annex I of Commission Regulation (EC) No 26/2004 of 30 December 2003 regarding the fishing vessels register of the Union or spend less than 24 hours at sea;




Construction Aid 

COMP AM 27 allows vessel construction aid. This was abolished with the last Reform in 2022 and it makes no sense to re-open this closed chapter. At the time the Court of Auditors gave a negative opinion about vessel construction aid.

So voting for COMP AM 2 and 27 would mean giving EU taxpayers’ money to build new trawlers. This would be contradictory to the EP position on the reform of the CFP as the EP has achieved many concessions from the Council to make this policy more sustainable for the future.




What’s Changed in Europe’s Fisheries Policy

 A Greek Revolutionary Who Delivered Change

Commissioner Damanaki acheived what many people, including me, thought not possible. She pulled off a real reform of Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy. She ignored her critics, whether they were in DG MARE who opposed tooth and nail the discards ban, Commissioner Barnier whose services waterted down DG MARE’s proposal at last minute in Inter-Service Consultation. She bypassed many members of the fisheries committee and outplayed many in industry who opposed the spirit of reform.

What’s Been Agreed

Reading the new Basic Regulation the scale of the reform is remarkable.


Regionalisation was only dear to the hearts of the Sweden and UK. It was vocally championed by Scotland, and this led many many Member States to see it as a move to re-nationalise fisheries, and so out of principle oppose it.

Only Richard Benyon’s urbane and active negotiation style won over the many doubting Member States to the case for devolved fisheries management. And, I say this as a member of a Political Party different from Mr Benyon.

The key section is in Article 17 that allows:

  • Member States to co-operate with each other and other third countries.
  • An appeal procedure is established if a Member State does not agree.
  • Coordination with scientific bodies is required

What is remarkable is that issue ever sought the light of day. Regionalisation is a legally ingenious provision, one I suspect that the Commission’s own legal service have severe reservations about.

How Many Fish In the Sea

 A lot of people get very focused on three letters: MSY.

MSY means ‘Maximum Sustainable Yield’ and many hours were spent discussing this in the Parliament and the Council.

Now, making sure there are plenty of fish in the sea to reproduce at healthy levels makes sense to me. But, then it all gets a bit complicated. Too many people convert in to that strange language ‘ science speak’ and start  talking about F MSY, B MSY and other variations, and politicians eyes start to glaze over.

Interestingly, it becomes clear we don’t really know how many fish there are in the sea. It really is not easy to count them.  And, often the guestimates from organisations like ICES are well nothing more than well intentioned guestimates,  with margins of error that would makes your eyes water.

What Was Agreed on Regionalisation

The Parliament, Council and Commission finally agreed to the following:

‘The Common Fisheries Policy shall apply the precautionary approach to fisheries management, and shall aim to ensure that exploitation of living marine biological resources restores and maintains populations of harvested species above levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield. This exploitation rate shall be achieved by 2015, where possible, and by 2020 for all stocks at the latest.

In order to reach this objective of progressively restoring and maintaining populations of fish stocks above biomass levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield, the maximum sustainable yield exploitation rate shall be achieved by 2015 where possible and on a progressive, incremental basis at the latest by 2020 for all stocks.’

They even went and provided a definition for MSY:

Art.5(6): Definition:  ‘maximum sustainable yield’ means the highest theoretical equilibrium yield that can be continuously taken on average from a stock under existing average environmental conditions without affecting significantly the reproduction process’

Now, experience seems to show that if you follow plans to reach these levels there will be a lot more fish in the sea by 2020. Indeed, if we follow plans to reach these targets, we’ll likely have to start dealing with new problems like too many too big cod in the North Sea.

Discards Ban

Hugh’s Fish Fight brought to the UK public’s attention the tragi-comedy of fish discarding.  The issue had been on the fisheries agenda for many years. In practice, nothing much had been done about and discards of cod in the North Sea and elsewhere continued at insanely high amounts.

Channeling the Norwegians

The throwing over board dead fish annoyed the public. It annoyed our Norwegian neighbours who had banned the practice for years and kept asking the EU to copy them. We kept refusing to act.  As good Norwegians they kept trying to explain to the EU that  discard bans works to restore socks to profitablity and sustainability. Indeed, the final text looks like it has been written by the sons of Odin themselves.

Counting What’s Landed

If you look to Article 15 you will see the shift from a catch quota to a landing quota. It provides for a mandatory landing requirement. It establishes that the fish caught are, in the main, counted against the quota.

Ambitious But Workable Deadlines

The deadlines are:

1st January2015

‘ (a)        the latest from 1 January 2015:

–       small pelagic fisheries i.e. fisheries for mackerel, herring, horse mackerel, blue whiting, boarfish, anchovy, argentine, sardine, sprat; large pelagic fisheries i.e. fisheries for bluefin tuna, swordfish, albacore tuna, bigeye tuna, blue and white marlin;

–       fisheries for industrial purposes i.a. fisheries for capelin, sandeel and Norway pout;

–       salmon in the Baltic Sea.

–   At the latest from 1 January 2015  for species defining the fisheries and not later than 1 January 2017 for all other species in fisheries in Union waters of the Baltic Sea for species subject to catch limits other than those covered by point (a).

1st January 2016

 At the latest from 1 January 2016 for species defining the fisheries and not later than 1 January 2019 for all other species in:

–            (i) The North Sea

–             fisheries for cod, haddock, whiting, saithe;

–             fisheries for Norway lobster;

–             fisheries for common sole and plaice;

–             fisheries for hake;

–             fisheries for Northern prawn;

–             (ii) North Western waters

–             fisheries for cod, haddock, whiting, saithe;

–             fisheries for Norway lobster;

–             fisheries for common sole and plaice;

–             fisheries for hake;

–             (iii) South Western waters

–             fisheries for Norway lobster;

–             fisheries for common sole and plaice;

–             fisheries for hake;

–         (iv)      other fisheries for species subject to catch limits.

1st January 2017

–   At the latest from 1 January 2017 for species defining the fisheries and not later than 1 January 2019 for all other species in fisheries not covered by paragraph 1(a) in the Mediterranean, in the Black Sea and in all other Union waters and in non-Union waters not subject to third countries’ sovereignty or jurisdiction.’

Member States Can Go Further 

Provision is even made to all allow Member States to extend the landing obligation to other species.

When is A Discard Ban A Discard Ban?

The EU is not stopping the discarding of all fish. It is cutting the discarding by a huge amount.

Provision is made for `De-minmis exemptions of up to 5% of total annual catches of all species`.  This means that some fish can be discarded but at levels massively lower than the levels thrown overboard today.

Checking It Is Working

 The key requirement is:

‘All catches subject to catch limits, and in the Mediterranean also catches subject to minimum landing sizes as defined in the Annex to Regulation (EC) No. 1967/2006, caught during fishing activities in Union waters or by Union fishing vessels outside Union waters in waters not subject to third countries’ sovereignty or jurisdiction, in the fisheries and geographical areas listed below shall be brought and retained on board the fishing vessels, recorded, landed, and counted against the quotas where applicable (Article 15(1)’.

This requires the ‘recording’ of the fish caught. Now, how this recording is to be done is detailed further along in Article 15.

‘Member States shall ensure detailed and accurate documentation of all fishing  trips and adequate capacity and means for the purpose of monitoring compliance with the obligation to land all catches, inter alia such means as observers, CCTV and other. In doing so, Member States shall respect the principle of efficiency and proportionality (Article 15(8)’.

This requires Member States to ensure detailed and accurate documented fisheries.  It leaves a number of options on how this can be done, via on-board observers, CCTV or some new technology that may come on stream to help ensure the fully documented fisheries is happening.

Now, there are some caveats, and Member States may opt for alternative solutions for the under 12 metre fleet. However, exemptions in EU Law are always interpreted narrowly, and anyone who is looking to use this exempt the over 15 metre fleet will likely find themselves loosing in the European Court.


Non Compliance by Operators

Now, the issue comes up what happens if some parts of the fleet choose to ignore these provisions. Of course, the matters of non-compliance are a matter for the Member State to deal with. But, changes in fisheries rules have in the past seen fishermen show their displeasure by blockading thriving commercial ports.

The Regulations speaks of Member States adopting measures  including the “the establishment of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions” (Article  46 (2a).

There are obvious sanctions that a Member State could deploy if operators break the law. These can include the removal of the of fishing license or fines. And, as in most countries the quota is held by the government, there may be an option to withdraw the quota from operators. So, if fishermen were to choose to blockading commercial ports a government would surely be within their rights to withdraw their quota or other criminal or civil sanctions that exist in that country. And, we should not forget the civil actions commercial shipping operators could bring for losses brought about by blockading commercial ports.

Non-Compliance by Governments

The Regulation also spells out clear the duties on Member States, as well as the  consquences for noncompliance (e.g. see Article 50). Until recently, compliance by Member States with the CFP has been variable.

TFCs – A Step Too Far

One element from the reform that was gutted early on was the mandatory use of Transferable Fishing Quotas. This was killed off by an odd alliance of NGOs, the small and large scale fishing fleet, and governments.

Some governments wanted it. Spain was chief among them. The UK government saw how effective the schemes had been in other countries, but did not want them imposed on. Denmark did not fight the issue because they already have ITQs and think they work very well.

There were attempts to kill the use of TFCs off all together, but that fortunately failed.

For countries who use TFCs they will need to:

“establish and maintain a register of transferable fishing concessions” (Article 27).

This won’t be a major problem. If you can read Danish they have the details all on line today.

I need to re-read the text to see if the agreement still allows the antiquated practice in many countries of the ownership of the quota being secret. The ownership if often known only by the government or the industry.  The irony seems to be that in some countries, whilst the government hold the legal title to the quota, they are not clear who is using it. The industry do know but won’t tell the government.

Europe Can Change

I think the biggest lesson from the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is that Europe can adapt and change.

When David Cameroon raised in his speech about Britain’s future in Europe at the start of the year, he raised the issue of fisheries policy. By doing so, he raised fisheries policy up the political agenda in many capitals.

Chancellor Merkel, from a historic fisheries constituency, may well have decided that this is an issue to show the public in the UK and in Europe,  that Europe can change for the better.  The German governments late burst of supporting reform helped bring about real change. It shows that Europe can change for the better.

Indeed, many countries have taken brave steps on the path of fisheries reform.  Simon Coveney proved many wrong when he pushed through a reform during the Irish Presidency. Ireland has traditionally been seen in the camp of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy on fisheries. Simon Coveney  shows us that there some politicians in Europe who are prepared to fight for the greater good.

I am sure one day the story about how the reform was reached at 3:30 on a Thursday morning will be written.  I know that at the centre of that story will be a brave Greek politican, Maria Damanaki, who had the rare mix of vision, stubbornness and stamina to bring about a real reform to Europe’s fisheries policy.


John Dalli Found Innocent Again

Malta’s police have confirmed there is no case against John Dalli, the former Commissioner who took was brave to take on fags industry.

John Dalli has also already been found innocent by OLAF.

President Barroso was very quick to demand Dalli’s resignation, notwithstanding the lack of any real evidence, unless he’s taking as credible the tobacco industry’s voice.

I would not mind if the President of the Commissioner took a purer than pure approach on such thing.  But, there is one current court case for tax evasion going on today that involves one of his Commissioners.

The euronews item is worth watching.

Copyright © 2013 euronews