WWF slams "secret" fishing subsidies

Payments even made for sunken vessels, while fish stocks plummet, says pressure group

Environmental campaign group WWF has attacked what it claims is excessive secrecy over European government subsidies for fishing industries. The assault comes in a report published at a symposium held by the NGO in Brussels today.

"Fishing subsidies are contributing to a world-wide crisis of overfishing...while taxpayers pour billions into the pockets of parts of the fishing industry, governments keep the facts hidden away," WWF's David Schorr alleged. In some cases the failure to disclose information violated domestic and international legal obligations, he added.

The criticism comes at a time when fishing fleets are being squeezed by the tightest catch quotas on some key stocks in recent memory (ENDS Daily 17 December 1999). WWF said that secret funding was "nothing short of a scandal, especially when fishing fleets are so oversized and fish stocks so perilously low."

According to the group, only 10% of national fishing subsidies required to be reported under World Trade Organisation rules were actually disclosed. As examples of misuse of funds it cited five cases discovered by the EU court of auditors where subsidies had been claimed for vessels which had actually sunk. Elsewhere, euros 300m had been spent on a failed programme to relocate EU boats outside EU waters, it said.

Follow Up:
WWF European Policy Office, tel: +32 2 743 8800, and a press release.

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