The EU brings back subsidies for its fishing fleets. Is this the end of our tuna?

Coastal nations of the Indian Ocean be worried, be very worried. On Thursday 4th of April, members of the European Parliament agreed to bring back fisheries subsidies, despite the risk of massively increasing overexploitation of fish stocks http://j.mp/2KfJ8pu.

The Le Monde newspaper says that with the fisheries subsidies worth about 6 billion Euros, the European Parliament has jeopardized the commitments made 15 years ago to combat excessive fishing in the EU http://j.mp/2KfbPTs.

However, for us in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), where 40% of the EU catch of tuna comes from, this may mean the end of our tuna stocks. Currently, the EU strategy at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission in terms of tuna allocations, if successful, will be devastating to WIO coastal nations particularly Seychelles http://j.mp/2OTDvvI.

The new subsidies will help build newer, larger and more efficient fishing vessels that will now come to our waters and harvest our fish even faster than in previous years. The subsidies may possibly also assist fishing boats which are engaged in illegal fishing but perhaps more likely incentivise some fisheries activities which may not be strictly illegal but are shadowy in terms of evading quotas and national enforcement. And who watches the EU which has been accused of neo-colonial approaches to tuna fisheries http://j.mp/2OXjBQI?

The yellowfin tuna stock is in deep trouble according to scientific estimates http://j.mp/2IknIEX. The deployment of thousands of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADS) by EU fleets leads to juvenile fish (which like to aggregate under floating objects) getting caught http://j.mp/2KdewVo. The subsidies will make FAD- fishing even more efficient, vacuuming even more juvenile fish out of our Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

Its been well known that most subsidies lead to more and more boats chasing less and less fish. This practice has been condemned by all international and environmental organisations http://j.mp/2VorReK. Recent studies have shown that without government subsidies, industrial fishing would be unprofitable http://j.mp/2Ii19ke.

The European Union has been working for years with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) so that member states reach an agreement on the elimination of fishing subsidies harmful to marine resources http://j.mp/2KnO0ci. Why then this sudden volte face?

Furthermore, in 2015, the EU committed itself to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including the Ocean Goal, Goal 14. Target 14.6 of this Goal states that by 2020 we must “prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and refrain from introducing new such subsidies” http://j.mp/2OTf5Cx. Is the EU sincere in its international commitments?

The decision is a “dramatic backwards step”, said Andrea Ripol, fisheries policy officer at Seas At Risk. “Allocating taxpayers’ money to directly finance the construction of new vessels or the replacement of engines is counter-productive. This will fuel fisheries’ overcapacity, exacerbating the overfishing problem, without any guarantee of delivering any public good” http://j.mp/2KfjOQt.

With this latest move the EU Parliament has sent exactly the wrong message to the rest of the world: we don’t care what you do to protect your marine resources because we are giving billions of Euros to Europeans so its easier for them to come and take what’s left of your fish. What are we in Seychelles going to do?

Author: Dr. Nirmal Shah

Nirmal is a well-known and a passionate personality in the Seychelles environmental and sustainability scene having an encyclopedic knowledge of Seychelles biodiversity as well as a wealth of experience in environment management. He has worked in senior positions in the parastatal, government, private and NGO sectors and consulted for international organizations such as the World Bank, IUCN, UNEP, Sida and UNESCO. He has appeared on CNN, BBC, Radio France, PBS, NBC, ABC, SABC and others

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