Fisheries aid deal blocked in Council

Member states have failed to reach an agreement to aid ailing EU fisheries, delaying a possible conclusion to the autumn. The outcome was hailed by conservationists who point out that stocks are already on the brink of collapsing.

Germany, Britain, Belgium and Poland on Monday (22 May) blocked a proposal to establish a European Fisheries Fund (EFF) that would have allowed 3.8 billion in EU aid to be distributed to the sector for the period 2007-2013.

They defeated a coalition of Mediterranean countries under pressure to take action on high fuel prices by their influential fishing sector. Poland, who was initially supportive of the deal, backed away because it did not receive enough money to renew its fleet.

EU fishermen are caught between a lasting surge in oil prices and declining fish stocks, both of which are putting their long term survival in jeopardy.

The Commission said it was disappointed with the vote as it felt the proposal would have allowed aid to fishermen without adding pressure on fish stocks. The proposal was “balanced” and would have given “guarantees not to increase fleet capacity”, said the Commission’s fisheries spokesperson, Mireille Thom.

But conservation organisation WWF were pleased with the outcome, saying the subsidies would have caused “a disastrous increase in the capacity of the European fleet.”

According to the WWF, stocks of Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean are “showing strong signs of collapse” with catches in Southern Spain down 80% from last year.

Negotiations on the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) will continue at ambassador level (COREPER) with a view to reaching an agreement under Finnish presidency in the second half of the year.

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