EU fisheries ministers are embarked in heavy seas. The 25 are charting a course for future funding. Between January 2007 and 2013, the fisheries sector will account for 3.8 billion euros out of the communal budget. But the members have different ideas on how to spend it.
There are basically two main opposing camps at the annual marathon talks table: the subsidy-givers and the liberalisers.
Countries on the Mediterranean with hefty fishing sectors – Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece -are the so-called ‘Friends of Fishing’ group. They want EU aid preserved to a maximum. The more northern countries favour more open competition, with more attention paid to ecology. The ‘Friends of Fish’ group is essentially Germany, Britain and the Scandinavian countries.
Brussels wants to encourage the use of nets which do not scour the sea bottom, encourage techniques which use less fuel.
With the rise in oil costs, fuel can account for some 40% of the value of a catch. Flexibility is being extended to short-term state aid here.
The European Commission’s message is to go easy on the stocks; EU fisheries funding is aimed at ensuring sustainability. To discourage overfishing,
alternatives are being proposed such as developing aquaculture – fish farming – in coastal regions. Food processing and improved marketing can also expect to get funding consideration.