Marinet launches Reform of EU Fishing Subsidies campaign

Marinet has launched a major campaign, running between now and December, to secure far-reaching reform of EU fishing subsidies. These subsidies are widely recognised as a key cause of over-fishing. The campaign is explained by a short 3 minute film and is supported by a petition to Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and all EU Fisheries Ministers. The petition calls for serious reform of subsidies by shifting payments into conservation-based management and the rebuilding of fish stocks.

At present EU fishing subsidies are being used, as Sir Graham Watson MEP puts it, as a sort of “arms race” whereby fishermen compete between each other for these payments in order to upgrade the fishing capacity of their vessels, thus intensifying the pressure on fish stocks. In other words fishing subsidies which total over 1 billion Euros annually – our tax money – are serving to support an old-styled “extraction-based” Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The reform Marinet wants maintains the level of subsidy, but uses the funds instead for conservation. Under this reform, subsidies will still be paid to fishermen and their vessels. However no longer to primarily extract fish, but rather to conserve and rebuild stocks by creating marine reserves centred on spawning and nursery grounds which the fishermen and their vessels are paid to patrol and monitor.

This way the CFP is shifted onto a conservation basis rather than an extraction basis, and thereby we pursue a policy of rebuilding stocks which are so essential for the long-term financial health of the fishing industry and the re-establishment of fish food security.

So through tackling the money and subsidy payments, Marinet believes it is possible to genuinely reform the Common Fisheries Policy.

“The key people”, says John Stansfield Marinet’s EU campaigner, “who can deliver this reform are the President of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso, and the 27 EU Fisheries Ministers. We have therefore aimed and focused the campaign on Manuel Barroso and the Ministers, and will be lobbying (with your help) the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee and all the other 700 MEPs to put real pressure on Manuel Barroso and the Ministers.”

This is how the campaign works:

Marinet has created a short 3 minute YouTube film which explains very simply the problem of fishing subsidies. Linked to this film is an Avaaz Petition addressed to President Barroso and the Fisheries Ministers insisting they reform EU fishing subsidies in the way Marinet has outlined above.

“To demonstrate to President Barroso”, says John Stansfield, “and the Ministers that we care about this issue and that we really mean business, we need 1 million signatures. Now this is the important part – how do we get 1 million signatures?”

“Obviously,” explains John Stansfield, “we will be asking Friends of the Earth and all the other marine organisations (Greenpeace, WWF, Wildlife Trust, Marine Conservation Society, RSPB, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and others) if they will request their members to sign the Petition – these organisations could, on average, contribute 100,000 signatures each if they respond positively. That will make a very substantial contribution. However the part you play is equally important. This is what we want you to do.

“You need to identify 10 people (more if you can) who you think will sign the Petition.

“You then send these 10 people an email (see attached draft email) with the request that they sign the petition and – this is the key – an instruction that they also find 10 people to who they can send the Petition with a request that they sign it along with a request that they find a further 10 people who they can send the petition to with a request that they sign it, and so on . . . . thus we create a chain effect which is repeatedly passed down the line.

“By this means, your original signature and involvement generates 10 more signatures, and each of these new signatories generates another 10 signatories, and then each of these signatories generates another 10 signatories. . . thus we get the multiplier effect whereby this chain generates thousands and thousands of signatures which, if it goes on, turns into hundreds of thousands signatures. This effect and its result is real. Simply do the arithmetic, it works.

“Thus we reach our target of 1 million signatures, and President Barroso and the Ministers know that they have to listen.

“So please get to work, and the best of luck.”

Note: If you need it, the Petition address is and the YouTube film address is . The wording of the Petition is also given below, along with a short explanation of why this campaign is so important. Please use this explanation, whenever anyone asks.

Petition text: “We call upon the President of the European Commission and all European Fisheries Ministers to stop subsidising practices which lead to over-fishing and the wrecking of precious undersea habitats. The present system of fishing subsidies can, in the worst case scenario, also motivate illegal practices because the actual use of subsidies is unaudited. Therefore we call upon the President and the Fisheries Ministers to reform the subsidy system so that subsidies can be used to conserve and rebuild fish stocks to the point where they provide food security throughout Europe. This reform means marine reserves policed by fishermen, all funded by subsidy payments which are fully audited in an open and accountable way. It is clear that financial incentives must be given to conservation if we are to have a secure future.”


Why the Campaign is Important: EU fishing subsidy payments total over 1 billion Euros annually, and are strongly implicated in the maintenance of over-capacity in the European fishing fleet which, in turn, leads to over-fishing. Over-fishing is not only destroying wild fish stocks – a key food resource – but is also causing severe damage to the marine ecosystem. This ecosystem supports both large animals, like dolphins and seabirds, to the smallest creatures, like shrimps and tiny zooplanktonzooplankton Zooplankton form the group of tiny animals such as minuscule jellyfish and rotifers present in the marine environment. They are a major source of food for those higher up the food chain, and their numbers relate directly as a good indicator to the nutrient enrichment of the sea of the area. Note: phytoplankton are microscopic plants, and zooplankton are microscopic animals.. We cannot do this sort of damage to the marine world and believe we can escape the consequences.

This kind of belief, supported by financial subsidies, characterized the exploitation of the world’s largest cod fishery in the seas off eastern Canada which collapsed, in the early 1990s, despite warnings of impending disaster from marine scientists. This cod fishery has never recovered, and it has been commercially extinct ever since.
We are now challenging European seas in exactly the same way, over-fishing the stocks and supporting this by means of subsidy payments which, in our case, lack any proper system of auditing.

Our fish stocks will only survive if we convert the subsidy system away from over-fishing. We must use this money instead as subsidies to finance conservation and the rebuilding of stocks whilst, most importantly, ensuring that the whole system of payments is fully transparent and accountable.

Not a single one of these proposals for reform of fishing subsidies is on the table at the present time. Payments are currently being made in the dark from the tax payer’s point of view, and we are courting a breakdown in the ecological structure of our seas. This is why this petition is so important. To speak plainly, it is our future, your children’s future and the marine world’s future which we are putting at risk. So please demonstrate your support for our campaign, tell others about it, and sign this petition.

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