Europe and Central Asia

Press release: One step forward, two steps back - European Parliament fails last hurdle to save our oceans

EU parliament votes to reward and promote overfishing - again embraces harmful subsidies to fishers

Today, the European Parliament voted to spend EU taxpayer money to harm the marine environment. They voted to invest in overfishing and to re-introduce subsidies they phased out 15 years ago because of the detrimental impacts they were already proven to have had on the environment. Now they will again.

The European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is the only dedicated EU funding source available for implementing and supporting maritime and fisheries policies. This vote confirms the European Parliament’s position on which activities to support at sea between 2021 and 2027.

With obvious disregard for the state of our oceans, MEPs voted to subsidise fishers even when they overfish stocks, and as a result must stop fishing, and also to subsidise building and modernising fishing vessels. Currently 69% of EU fishing stocks are already overfished.[1] This contradicts the EU position in the World Trade Organization (WTO), where, ignoring a look in the mirror, it tells other governments around the world not to subsidise their fishing fleets.

As a token for the environment, it voted to ringfence 25% of the EMFF to protect and restore the marine environment. Ironically, this money can still be used to kill birds, dolphins, seals and other wildlife protected under EU law when these are thought to be a nuisance to fishers.

Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe:
“This Parliament should be ashamed. Everyday Europeans demand better protection of our oceans, yet their representatives in Parliament have just voted to encourage its further destruction. It is scandalous and embarrassing that the European Parliament has voted to re-introduce the perverse subsidies they intelligently phased out 15 years ago.”

The European Parliament will now enter negotiations with the Council and the European Commission in an effort to decide a final deal.


For more information please contact:

Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe

+32 478 88 64 20   


[1] 69% of of EU fishing stocks are already overfished - Froese et al. (2018) Status and rebuilding of European fisheries. Marine Policy, 93: 159-1

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.