THE European Parliament today rejected a bid by MEPs from France and Spain to give huge grants to skippers for new boats as part of a new £5.5 billion package of aid for fragile fishing communities across the Continent.
They also voted to cap the amount Member States can spend on fishing fleets as part of the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) which will provide €6.5 billion of grants for the fishing industry between 2014 and 2020.
The Strasbourg vote is a crucial step towards securing final political agreement by the end of the to allow the funding to be in place by January.
Struan Stevenson, the Scottish Conservative Euro MP and Senior Vice President of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, welcomed the vote. He said: “With this vote in Strasbourg, we are a step closer to an EMFF that will promote healthy fish stocks and marine environments while ensuring European fisheries and aquaculture industries, especially those in Scotland, remain prosperous and competitive in an increasingly globalised marketplace.
“It will also boost scientific research and data collection, both of which will play crucial roles in our pursuit to better understand and safeguard fish stocks. “
Mr Stevenson continued: “Though MEPs also voted for controversial measures to provide aid for engine replacement and modernisation, it is my hope that these programmes operate only within strict financial limits and conditions, something I will be pushing as the parliament now enters trilogue negotiations with the Commission and Council.
“However, I am particularly happy that MEPs voted to reject new fleet renewal subsidies. These subsidies were abolished in 2003 while I was President of the Fisheries Committee.”
He declared: “The EMFF should be used fairly to achieve greater sustainability and never at the service of large fishing nations wanting to use taxpayers’ money to subsidise their fleets and build bigger boats.”
The Parliament’s vote was also welcomed by Maria Damanaki, the European Fisheries Commissioner.
She said: “I am pleased with the overall outcome of the vote. In particular, I welcome the decision to reject spending EU taxpayers’ money on building new fishing vessels and to cap the amount of funds Member States can spend on fishing fleets.
“This will allow the EMFF to focus on funding projects which promote a sustainable future for the fishing industry and coastal communities.”
Markus Knigge, policy advisor to conservation organisation the OCEAN2012 coalition, also criticised the decision to award subsidies for engine replacement. He added: “Today’s vote sends a very clear message to EU fisheries ministers that they must work to increase aid for data collection, fisheries control, and enforcement in the upcoming negotiations between the Parliament and Council on the European Maritime Fisheries Fund.”