Support from European Fisheries Fund has little impact on reducing fishing capacity of fishing fleet and development of ports

Toomas Mattson | 11/11/2013 | 1:47 PM

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TALLINN, 11 November 2013 - The National Audit Office of Estonia has found that support from the European Fisheries Fund has had little impact on reducing the fishing capacity of the active fishing fleet. The majority of support recipients reinvested the state aid they received into newer, incl. more powerful fishing vessels, whilst the state allocated them free fishing capacity from the register and maintained existing fishing rights.

Granting support for the development of fishery infrastructure has been efficient in the establishment of fish-freezing facilities, but no support has been paid out to trawling ports yet and they are in serious need of renovation.
The National Audit Office audited whether the support granted by the European Fisheries Fund has helped adapt the fishing fleet to EU requirements and develop infrastructure related to fisheries. Estonia planned to distribute 112.8 million euros in support via the European Fisheries Fund from 2007-2013, more than a half of which had been paid out by July 2013. In its audit, the National Audit Office evaluated the measures aimed at the adaptation of the fishing fleet and the development of fishery regions. The budget of the audited measures was 55 million euros.
The goal of the common fisheries policy of the EU is to achieve sustainable fishing. Above all, this means achieving a balance between fishery resources and the fishing fleet, and avoiding overfishing. In order to reduce pressure on fishery resources, states may pay support to the owners of fishing fleets as an incentive to decommission their fishing vessels or use them for other purposes, and to delete the vessels that receive support from the register of fishing vessels. States may enter new fishing vessels in the register only on condition that fishing capacity equalling that of the new vessels has previously been excluded from the register and no support has been paid for this.
Audit Manager of the Performance Audit Department Airi Andresson says it is not right that those who receive decommission support can use the money to purchase new vessels, as this does not reduce the number of active fishing vessels. The Ministry of Agriculture encourages reinvestment in new fishing vessels by distributing the free registry capacities required for the registration of vessels in the register of fishing vessels to support recipients, and the recipients were not required to give up their existing fishing rights. Since fishing capacities were restored in the register, the active fishing capacity of support recipients only decreased by one-fifth due to reinvestment. The National Audit Office also found cases where people were first paid support from the fisheries fund to decommission a vessel and later for the vessel acquired as a replacement for the one decommissioned. Such conduct by the state created an unequal situation between those who had removed vessels from the register and received support for this and those whose vessels were removed from the register without any support being paid to them.
The money received from the European Fisheries Fund was also supposed to be used for the reconstruction of trawling ports that the producer organisations of fishermen and the Ministry of Agriculture selected as those with the most potential. Unfortunately, no developer has been found for the ports yet despite two calls for proposals. The financing period is coming to an end and the National Audit Office is concerned that the support money will go unspent.
Only the sustainability of producer organisations has clearly improved, because modern fish-freezing facilities have been established in Audru, Haapsalu and Paldiski with the support of the fisheries fund. Preservation and initial processing of fish allows fishermen to receive a better price for their products by selecting the right moment of sale.
Based on the audit, the National Audit Office has advised that payment of support be stopped for the permanent termination of the fishing activities of a vessel in the new programme period from 2014-2020 if the shortcomings in the inspection of excess fishing capacity and increasing the fishing capacity of vessels, the distribution of free fishing capacity in the register of fishing vessels and the reinvestment of support into new fishing vessels are not eliminated.   

Background

Fishery resources in the European Union are decreasing and the European Parliament is of the view that the decrease in catches and loss of jobs caused by overfishing is proof that the fishing capacity of fishing fleets is too large. The support paid by the European Fisheries Fund helps fishermen make changes in their activities.

Toomas Mattson
Head of Communication Service, National Audit Office
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+372 51 34 900

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  • Posted: 11/11/2013 1:47 PM
  • Last Update: 8/16/2015 12:15 AM
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