Press release – Over 130 scientists in the EU: Stop funding overfishing

Brussels – December 1st

To the press – for immediate publication

Scientists sign an open letter denouncing the EU’s ambitions to reintroduce “harmful” subsidies that are directly related to the destruction of nature at sea.

Scientists from all EU countries sound the alarm as the European Commission, Council and Parliament decide how the next European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) should be spent. Between 2021 and 2027, around seven billion euros in public money will flow into the marine economy. However, countless studies and reports show that the vast majority of the fund is used to encourage overfishing and the destruction of nature at sea [1].

The decision to use the EMFF will have an impact on the EU’s position in negotiating a global agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO). If the EU does not remove harmful subsidies from the EMFF, a WTO agreement in line with the SDGs will not be reached.

Bruna Campos, Senior Marine Policy Officer at BirdLife Europe, says:
For too long, public money has been used to marginalize nature at sea. The science is loud and clear, we cannot continue this. The rest of the world stands ready to break away from the practice of subsidizing devastating actions at sea, and for a while the EU has been at the forefront of that vision. In even considering continuing this subsidy model domestically, EU leaders are not only stepping back two steps, but are effectively declaring that they have no interest in protecting the ocean that serves us all.

You can read the full letter below and online.

The reality of overfishing in European waters is well documented and the EU needs to make positive changes to effectively manage its fisheries.1 This requires investment in scientific research to provide adequate advice and ensure that policy decisions are transparent and consistent with them Advice is consistent. However, across the EU – from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea, Western Waters, the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea – scientific advice is not always followed, effective surveillance, control and surveillance of fishing activities is inconsistent and fish stocks continue to be overexploited.

This degradation of nature at sea is compounded by the provision of public money through government subsidies – a problem long described by scientists, including noted 18th-century economist Adam Smith.2 Harmful fisheries subsidies are the main drivers of these unsustainable measures of exploitation our depleted fish populations and decline in marine species.3 They enable fishing fleets to operate outside of boundaries that would otherwise be neither sustainable in terms of fishing economics nor biological sustainability, as ships can continue to fish despite dwindling revenues and Resources. Harmful subsidies include all forms of public investment that artificially lower costs or increase profits in the sector. In the EU context, they include the construction, renewal and modernization of ships, as well as fishing aid, income support programs and ship recruitment programs, if not implemented correctly they can lead to over-exploitation.4 However, some decision-makers still ask their questions Effect.

The EU still defies fully effective fisheries management in all of its waters and harmful subsidies must be removed if its fisheries are to become sustainable. A future European Fund for Sea Fisheries (EMFF) could drive this reform forward by diverting harmful subsidies to the benefit of the marine environment. Indeed, citizens are calling on EU governments to fund 25% of the EMFF for nature conservation.5 This could help local communities manage marine protected areas together or invest in technologies that will help ensure that the Industry has little impact. For example, reduce bycatch of dolphins, sea turtles, sea birds and sharks. 6

It is estimated that taxpayers spend $ 35.4 billion annually on fisheries subsidies around the world, 63% of which lead directly to unsustainable and destructive practices.7 The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for “Underwater Life”, SDG 14, explicitly calls for the elimination of subsidies that contribute to overcapacity, overfishing and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing by 2020

However, the EU continues to grant harmful fisheries subsidies. Removing them and redirecting them to beneficial forms of support has been slow, and most of the harmful subsidies persist, even according to the most conservative estimates of the current EMFF.9 While the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU In 2027 it is important that the positive steps of the last 20 years build on this and are not quickly reversed.

The decision to use the EMFF will have an impact on the EU’s position in negotiating a global agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO). If the EU does not remove harmful subsidies from the EMFF, a WTO agreement in line with the SDGs will not be reached.

We, the undersigned scientists, urge EU governments not to reintroduce harmful subsidies into the EMFF and instead ensure that these funds support the restoration, protection and preservation of nature at sea and the long-term sustainability of our oceans Livelihoods are used.


[1] Selection of studies and reports on the promotion and financing of overfishing by EMFF:

For further information please contact:

Honey Kohan, Media Officer, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia
+32 2541 0781
[email protected]

Notes for editors:

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organizations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to achieve high impact and long-term protection for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that make up BirdLife International. The Brussels-based company supports the European and Central Asian partnership and is represented in 47 countries, including all EU member states. With more than 4,100 employees in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of qualified volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 natural areas with a total area of ​​320,000 hectares.


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