Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Spanish practices

While we all debate the various ways the so-called reform of the Common Fisheries Policy might affect various fishing fleets and fishing ports, it might be a good idea to have a look at what is happening with the largest of the EU fishing fleets, the Spanish one.

An article on EUObserver, published in association with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an organization that has been spending time on investigating the operation of the Common Fisheries Policy with regards to Spanish practices, gives us some interesting though not surprising information.

Decades of overfishing have left Europe’s fish stocks in peril and its fishermen in poverty. It’s an impasse paid for by EU taxpayers. Yet a proposed revision of the EU’s fishing law, hailed as sweeping reform, is rapidly losing momentum.

A look at the industry’s biggest player - Spain - shows what officials are up against. Billions of euros in subsidies built its bloated fleet and propped up a money-losing industry. All the while, companies systematically flout the rules while officials overlook fraud and continue to fund offenders, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.

Well, dear me. So those officials are up against the problems of Spain claiming and getting huge subsidies and flouting the rules? And exactly who created the system in which this situation became possible? Not the officials, perchance, with politicians nodding everything through in order to be seen communautaire and, maybe, getting a deal somewhere else?

So let's have a look at those figures:
The Spanish fishing industry has received more than €5.8 billion (more than $8 billion and just over £5 billion) in subsidies since 2000 for everything from building new vessels and breaking down old ships to payments for retiring fishermen and training for the next generation, an fresh analysis by ICIJ shows.

Subsidies account for almost a third of the value of the industry. Simply put, nearly one in three fish caught on a Spanish hook or raised in a Spanish farm is paid for with public money.

And that is not all.

ICIJ’s analysis is the first in-depth look at just how much public aid Spain has received for fishing - primarily from EU taxpayers, but also from Madrid and regional governments. The country has cornered a third of all the EU’s fishing aid since 2000, far more than any other member state. The central government doles out even more for things such as low interest loans and funding for its largest industry associations, which in turn lobby the EU for more industry subsidies, records show. Since 2000, the sector has avoided paying €2 billion in taxes on fuel to the Spanish Treasury.

Public monies also fund a surprising range of services. More than €82 million ($114 million) has been spent to promote the fishing sector through advertising and at trade shows. After fishing vessels were hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean, Spain in 2009 changed its law to allow vessels to hire private security forces onboard, and then it helped foot the bill to the tune of €2.8 million.

The root of the problem, regulators say, is that out-of-control subsidies encourage countries to build up already oversized fleets that are rapidly depleting the seas.

Well, some countries, anyway, and as mentioned above, the regulators created this system.


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