Europe and Central Asia
2 Nov 2020

An Open Letter from Scientists: EMFF

© Silvio Augusto Rusmigo/ BirdLife Europe
By BirdLife Europe and Central Asia

[If you're a scientist and would like to sign the letter, please scroll to the bottom of this page.]

The reality of overfishing in European waters is well documented and the EU must make positive changes towards effectively managing its fisheries.1 This requires investment in scientific research to provide appropriate advice and ensuring that political decisions are transparent and align with that advice. However, across the EU—from the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Western Waters, Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea—scientific advice is not always followed, effective monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities are inconsistent, and fish stocks continue to be overfished.

This degradation of nature at sea is exacerbated through the provision of public money via government subsidies—a problem scientists have described for a long time, including the well-known 18th century economist, Adam Smith.Harmful fisheries subsidies are key drivers of this unsustainable exploitation of our depleted fish populations and the decline in marine species.3 They allow fishing fleets to operate outside of limits that would otherwise not be sustainable, either in terms of the economics of the fishery or biological sustainability, as vessels can continue to fish despite dwindling revenues and resources. Harmful subsidies include all forms of public investments that artificially reduce costs or enhance profits of the sector. In the context of the EU, they include vessel construction, renewal and modernisation as well as fisher assistance, income support programmes, and vessel cessation programmes when these are not implemented correctly they can lead to excessive exploitation.4 Yet, some decision makers still question their impact.

Completely effective fisheries management still eludes the EU in all of its waters and if its fisheries are to become sustainable, harmful subsidies must be eliminated. A future European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) could spearhead this reform by redirecting harmful subsidies towards benefitting the ocean environment. Indeed, citizens are asking EU governments to ring-fence 25% of the EMFF for nature protection.5 This could help to support local communities to co-manage Marine Protected Areas, or be invested in technologies that help industries become low impact and, for example, decrease bycatch of dolphins, sea turtles, seabirds and sharks.6

It is estimated that taxpayers spend US$35.4 billion a year on fisheries subsidies around the world, 63% of which directly encourage unsustainable and destructive practices.7 The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for “life below water”, SDG 14, calls explicitly for the elimination of subsidies that contribute to overcapacity, overfishing and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing by 2020.8

However, the EU continues to provide harmful fisheries subsidies. Removing and redirecting them towards beneficial forms of support has been slow, and the bulk of harmful subsidies remain present even based on the most conservative estimates of the current EMFF.9 As the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU negotiate a new EMFF 2021–2027, it is important that the positive steps taken over the past 20 years are built upon and not quickly undone.

The decision on how to spend the EMFF will impact the EU’s position in negotiating a global agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). If the EU does not remove harmful subsidies from the EMFF, an agreement at WTO aligning with the SDGs will not be achieved.

We, the undersigned scientists, call on EU governments to not re-introduce harmful subsidies in the EMFF and instead ensure these funds are redirected towards restoring, protecting and conserving nature at sea and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the livelihoods that our oceans support.

(The scientists who have signed this letter have done so in their personal capacities. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes, and do not imply any institutional position on fisheries subsidies)

1. European Environment Agency, 2019. Marine messages II. No 17/2019. View it here
2. Leazer, John. "A case for subsidies? Adam Smith and the eighteenth century Scottish herring fishery." The Historian 75.1 (2013): 47-68. View it here
3. IPBES (2019): Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. E. S. Brondizio, J. Settele, S. Díaz, and H. T. Ngo (editors). IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany. View it here
4. Sumaila, U. Rashid, et al. "A bottom-up re-estimation of global fisheries subsidies." Journal of Bioeconomics 12.3 (2010): 201-225. View it here
5. For more information, please check BirdLife Europe’s Petition
6. Campos, Bruna et al. (2020): Turning the tide on EU seas with a green recovery. View it here
7. Sumaila, U. Rashid, et al. "Updated estimates and analysis of global fisheries subsidies." Marine Policy 109 (2019): 103695. View it here
8. United Nations. 2015. Sustainable Development Goal 14 —Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development. United Nations, New York, NY (USA). View it here
9. Skerritt, Daniel J., et al. "A 20-year retrospective on the provision of fisheries subsidies in the European Union." ICES Journal of Marine Science (2020). View it here




List of signatories supporting this open letter:

Dr Rashid Sumaila, Professor, University of British Columbia
Dr Sebastian Villasante, Professor, University of Santiago de Compostela
Dr Daniel Skerritt, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of British Columbia
Dr Jean Harris, Executive Director, WILDTRUST
Dr Anthony Bicknell, Research Fellow, University of Exeter
Emilia Jankowska, Senior Research Fellow, Project Drawdown
Dr Ilyass Dahmouni, Scientist, ilyass dahmouni
Dr Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood, Lecturer, University of St Andrews
M.Sc. Ignacio Gianelli, Research Assistant, Faculty of Sciences, Uruguay
Dean Page, Postgraduate Researcher, University of Hull
Asta Audzijonyte, Chief Researcher, Nature Research Centre
Paul Day , Principal, Carijoa Marine Environmental Consulting
Dr Richard Lilley, Director , Project Seagrass
Ian Bryceson, Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Hussain Sinan, PhD student, Dalhousie University
Dr Jonathan Handley, Marine IBA/KBA Officer, BirdLife International
Dr Stephanie Borrelle, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Toronto
Pr Didier Gascuel, Head of the Fisheries and aquatic sciences center, at Agrocampus Ouest, Institut Agro
Dr Bethany Clark, Seabird Researcher, BirdLife International
PhD in Marine Sciences, Jose Juan Castro Hernández, Lecturer, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
Dr Brian Strehlow, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Southern Denmark
Athanassios Tsikliras, Associate Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Dr James Hehre, Operations Manager, Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre
Prof Christopher Feare, Owner, WildWings Bird Management
Mr Timothy Dodman, Consultant
M.Sc. Gina Pyo, Research Assistant, University of Haifa
Ms Laurie Storm
Dr Gert Van Hoey, researcher, ILVO
Dr Clive Mann
Dr Manel Gazo, Associated Professor, University of Barcelona
Dr David Álvarez, Assistant Professor, University of Oviedo
Dr Francisco Ramírez, Postdoctoral researcher, Institute of Marine Science-CSIC (Spain)
Dr Marta Cruz Flores, Scientist, University of Barcelona
Dr Joan Navarrl Researcher, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar - CSIC
Dr Glyn Young, Head of Bird Department, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Professor Daniel Oro, Professor of Research, CSIC
Dr Joan Giménez, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Marei-University College Cork
PhD Meritxell Genovart, Researcher, CSIC
Msc JOSÉ MANUEL DE LOS REYES GONZÁLEZ, Researcher, Universitat de Barcelona
Dr Ana Payo Payo,Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen
Zuzana Zajková, Post-doctoral researcher, NIOO, Netherlands
Dr Maria de la Fuente, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Universitat de Barcelona
Laura Mihaela Stefan, Scientific Researcher, National Institute of R-D for Biological Sciences, Bucharest, Romania
Oscar Chic, Data Scientist, Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC)
Professor Miquel Alcaraz Medrano, Biologist (retired), Asociación La Mar de Ciència
Full Professor, Jacob González-Solís, Professor of Zoology, Universitat de Barcelona
Dr Jaume Piera, Tenured Scientist, Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC)
Dr Clara Ruiz González, Postdoctoral researcher, Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC)
Andres de la Cruz, PhD Conservation of the Sea, University of Cádiz
Dr Marcos Portabella, Senior Scientist, Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC)
Dr Pere Puig,Scientific Researcher, Marine Sciences Institute, Barcelona, Spain (ICM-CSIC)
Marine biologist, Blanca Figuerola, Postdoctoral researcher, Institute of Marine Science (ICM-CSIC)
Dr Raquel Castillo-Contreras, Postdoctoral researcher, Universitat de Barcelona
Dr Daniel Matulić,Assoc Prof, University of Zagreb Faculty of Agriculture
Dr Andrés Barbosa, Senior Researcher, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas
Ana I. García-Cervigón, Assistant Professor, Rey Juan Carlos University
Dr Ana Sanz,Ramon y Cajal Researcher, University of Balearic Islands
Dr Ainhoa Bernal, Postdoctoral researcher, CSIC
Andrea Angel, Albatross Task Force Manager, Birdlife South Africa
Dr Alberto Velando, Senior Lecturer, Universidade de Vig
Zdeněk Vermouzek , Director , Czech Society for Ornithology
Dr Allan Mee, Project manager, Irish White-tailed Eagle reintroduction 
Dr Zvi Steiner, Scientist, GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel
Dr Benoit Gangloff, Scientific coordinator, ASPAS
Dr Melanie Bergmann, Marine Ecologist, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research
Msc Robin Hübscher, Wissenschaftlicher Assistent, Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz
Ms Manya Russo, Fundraising Officer and Deputy Chairperson, Zibel
Professor Stelios Katsanevakis, Professor in Marine Ecology, University of the Aegean
Eleana Touloupaki, Project Officer, MEDASSET - Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles
Stefanos Kavadas ,Researcher Mathematician - Fisheries Scientist, HCMR
Dr Helen Kaberi, Researcher, HCMR / Institute of Oceanography
Dr Alexandros Frantzis ,Scientific Director, Biologist-Oceanographer, Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, Greece
Maria Salomidi, Researcher, Institute of Oceanography, HCMR
Msc Aris Christidis, Technician, Fisheries Research Institute
Ioannis Giovos, Fisheries Director ,iSea, Environmental Organization for the Preservation of the Aquatic Ecosystems
Dr Christina Kassara, Biologist, freelancer
Dr Stavros Xirouchakis, Laboratory Academic Staff, University of Crete School of Sciences & Engineering Natural History Museum 
Dr Jocelyn Champagnon, Researcher, Tour du Valat, research institute for conservation of Mediterranean wetlands 
Nikos Doumpas, Project manager, Environmental Organisation for the Preservation of Aquatic Ecosystems, iSea
Dr Christos Tsabaris, Researcher, HCMR
Dr, MSc Persefoni Megalofonou, Professor of ichthyology, Department of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Dr Giorgos Kokkoris, Associate Professor, University of the Aegean
Amalia Alberini, Cetacean conservation expert, WWF Greece
Yorgos Melissourgos, Policy officer, WWF Greece
Dr Spyros Kotomatas, Senior Marine Conservation Officer, WWF Greece Dr Vassiliki Kati, Associate Professor, University of Ioannina

Dr Vasilis Gerakaris, Postdoctoral Research Associate, HCMR/Institute of Oceanography

Dr Vasilis Trygonis, Assistant Professor, University of the Aegean

Danae Portolou, Seabird Expert, Hellenic Ornithological Society / BirdLife Greece

Dr Dieter Thomas Tietze, Department Head, Center of Natural History, Universität Hamburg

Wieland Heim, Researcher, Münster University


Stavroula Christodoulopoulou, Biologist, natural History Museum of Crete, Greece

Dr Stamatis Zogaris, Researcher, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research

Dr Petros Lymberakis, Curator of Vertebrates, Natural History Museum of Crete - University of Crete 

Medical doctor, Efstathia Papageorgiou, Director of the Anesthesiology Dept., General hospital of Patras, Greece

Dr Marisa Vedor, Researcher, CIBIO

Dr Anne Marie Power, Lecturer & researcher in marine biology and fisheries, National University of Ireland Galway / Ryan Institute

Lic. Alejandro De Angelis, Sec. Science and tech., UNSO

Lázaro Marín-Guirao, Researcher, Spanish Institute of Oceanography

Gonçalo Silva, Researcher, MARE-ISPA

Susanne Schmidt, Researcher, private

Prof Rory Johnson, Associate Professor, University College Dublin

Pr Didier Gascuel, Head of the Fisheries and aquatic sciences center, Institut Agro, France

Prof. Dr Heiko Brunken, Professor for Ecology and Nature Conservation, City University of Applied Sciences Bremen

Dr Yiannis Issaris, Research Associate, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research

PhD Külli Kangur, Senior researcher, Estonian University of Life Sciences

Dr Maria-Elena Vorrath, Postdoc, Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany/LEMAR, Brest, France

Dr David Costalago, Fisheries analyst, OceanMind

Prof. Dr Hans Pörtner, Professor, Alfred-Wegener-Institut

EnekoAierbe Sarasola, Ayudante de laboratorio, InstitutoEspañolde Oceanografía

Msc Ryan Mckenna, Researcher, GMIT

Dr Cat Dorey, Independent Advisor, Consultant

Dr Mark Auliya, postdoc, Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig

Asun Rodríguez, PhD student, Basque Centre for Climate Change - BC3

Prof. Dr Ingolf Kühn, Professor for Macrecology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Philipp Schubert, Scientist, GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel

Dr Eric Edeline, Researcher, INRAE

Rafael Meichßner, PhD student, Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel

Wasseem Emam, Researcher, University of Stirling

Dr Eduardo Almansa, Senior researcher, Spanish Institute of Oceanography

Dr Aschwin Engelen, Groups leader Marine Microbial Ecology & Biotechnology, CCMAR

Prof. Dr Olaf Eisen, Professor for glaciology, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung & Universität Bremen

Dr Gisela Lannig, Marine Biologist, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar & Meeresforschung, Bremerhaven, Germany

Dr Dimitrios K. Moutopoulos, Associate Professor, University of Patras

Dr Anna Lena Bercht, Postdoc, Kiel University, Germany

Dr Barbara Horta e Costa, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Algarve - CCMAR

Dr Luis Gil de Sola Simarro, Investigador Titular, Instituto Español de Oceanografía

Henriette Schwemmer, scientist, Research and Technology Centre (FTZ) University Kiel

Samantha Andrews, PhD researcher, Memorial University 

Dr Joachim Claudet, Senior Research Scientist, National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)

Laura McMonagle, MSc Oceanography student , University of Southampton


Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.