When crime pays
Download this report in PDFMarch 8, 2011.
Update (March 2011)
Fishsubsidy.org has updated its list of convictions of owners of fishing vessels that have received EU subsidies under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
The updated study, which focuses on two major EU fishing nations, Spain and France, involves matching records of court convictions with data on EU fisheries subsidy payments. Between them, the 75 law-breaking vessels received €20,353,417 in EU subsidies between 1994 and 2006. In 14 of the cases cases, the vessels received subsidies after breaking the law.
Illegal fishing contributes to the overfishing of valuable fish stocks, many of which are at dangerously depleted levels. While previous studies have shown that many EU fisheries subsidies have directly contributed to the overfishing of fish stocks, this is the first study that draws the link between subsidies and illegal fishing. While there is no obligation to take criminal behaviour into account when deciding which vessels should get subsidies, EU Member States are free to consider this information. There is little evidence that any of them are.
“EU Member States should ensure those in receipt of subsidies are not engaged in illegal fishing. Subsidies have in the past fuelled overfishing; in the future they must be used to support a transition to more sustainable fishing.” said Markus Knigge of the Pew Environment Group, which commissioned the research into convictions and co-founded the fishsubsidy.org website that tracks EU fisheries subsidies payments.
The research gives only a snapshot of the problem of illegal fishing and the prevalence of EU subsidies being paid to vessels that have been convicted of illegal fishing, or that have gone on to break the law having received subsidies. Data on convictions is very hard to obtain and for this study the principal sources were newspaper reports, which will only ever give a very incomplete picture of the situation.
“European governments should publish comprehensive lists of convictions for illegal fishing so we can know who is breaking the law. This is the only way to ensure that public money is not going to fishermen who are breaking laws that protect our precious fisheries.” said Jack Thurston, a co-founder of fishsubsidy.org.
Four of the vessels on the list received more than 1 million euro each in EU subsidies. They have been convicted of serious infringements ranging from logbook misreporting to captures under minimum size to use of illegal fishing gear and exceeding quota.
Some of the vessels on the list have been convicted multiple times and have been heavily fined. In 2001, Hodeiertza and Gure Reinare, two vessels owned by Pesqueras Zozuak / Pascual Santizo, were found guilty of using illegal fishing gear. Each vessel was fined €35,000. The EU had financed the construction of the vessels to the tune of nearly 2 million euro between them. Hodeiertza received a further EU grant for modernisation in 2006.
Following the decision by the EU to ban driftnets, some 700 Italian vessels were paid over €100 million in EU funds between 1999 and 2002 to return their drfitnet fishing licences and reconvert to other more selective gears. A number of these vessels received the conversion aid but kept fishing with driftnets and also receive more subsidies from the EU. For example, the Orazio II was granted €173,000 in 1998 to reconvert its driftnets. In 2005 and 2006 the vessel’s owners were denounced by the environmental group OCEANA for continue use of driftnets and finally, in 2008, the vessel was caught with 11 km of illegal driftnets and sanctioned by the Italian authorities. Despite the repeated alerts by OCEANA of the illegal fishing, the vessel was awarded €66,372 in EU subsidies for modernisation in 2007.
The Italian vessel Davide was granted 306,376€ to surrender its driftnets in 1999. In 2005, its owners were sanctioned for fishing with the banned gear. In 2006, they received €94,850 in EU aid for modernisation and in 2008 it was sanctioned twice for fishing with illegal driftnets.
The study also covers the UK which, until December 2009, was alone among Member States in publishing detailed prosecution reports until the Marine Fisheries Agency decided to remove this information from its website, on grounds of ‘data protection’.
The full list of identified infringements can be viewed online:
A full record of all the source material for the infringements list is available for download.