EU Fishing Subsidies Encourage Overfishing, Affect Climate
Tax exemptions given to the EU fishing fleet have encouraged overfishing by reducing costs and resulted in the production of nearly 7.3 million tonnes of CO2 just from burning fuel, a new report published by Our Fish campaign has revealed.
The report, Climate Impacts & Fishing Industry Profits From EU Fuel Tax Subsidies, also found that fishing vessels benefit the most from these subsidies, while the climate, fisheries, and small-scale fishers suffer the consequences.
Rebecca Hubbard, programme director of Our Fish, said, “Each year, the most destructive sectors of the EU fishing fleet are being paid to produce millions of tonnes of CO2. While European citizens are expected to pay fuel tax to use their cars, the fishing industry avoids paying between €759 million and over €1.5 billion in taxes each year.
“These tax breaks from the EU not only worsen overfishing and jeopardise ocean health, [but they also] fuel climate change, the impacts of which will further disadvantage low-impact small-scale fishers.”
According to Grace O’Sullivan, member of the European Parliament, rapporteur for the EU’s eighth Environment Action Programme, added, “In the fishing industry, environmentally harmful subsidies have created a skewed system which incentivises larger vessels and fleets to engage in practices that actively harm the marine environment and deplete already threatened fish stocks.”
“This is unacceptable, and a key obstacle to achieving the emissions reductions and corrective measures urgently needed to address the climate and biodiversity crises.”
O’Sullivan believes that the eighth EAP is an opportunity to see decisive binding deadlines in the EU to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies and see an end to the practice of giving tax breaks and wasting public money.
The report also includes estimates of the fossil fuel tax subsidies received for the entire EU fishing fleet, and features case studies from France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands.
Hubbard also emphasised that every tonne of CO2 counts at this point, and the EU has an obligation under the new European Climate Law to eliminate as much CO2 as possible in order to reach climate neutrality by 2050.
“This is an opportunity to drive a rapid transition to low-carbon, low-impact fishing by ensuring the fishing industry pays its taxes,” added.
According to Hubbard, the revision of the Energy Taxation Directive, which proposes a small, nominal tax for the fishing industry, will do nothing to halt the climate crisis or restore the EU’s overfished and unhealthy seas.
“Tax exemptions for the fishing industry should be completely removed from the revised directive and all energy products taxed according to their energy and carbon content. This will simultaneously increase the budget of EU member states and help fund a transition to a more sustainable fisheries sector that doesn’t cost the earth,” concluded Hubbard.