EU fishing fleet gets up to € 1.5 billion in tax breaks, despite emissions
A new report revealed on Monday September 20 that the EU fishing fleet receives up to € 1.5 billion in tax breaks each year, despite emitting the same amount of CO2 as Malta in a year by burning fuel.
The fleet, which consists of some 63,600 active vessels, consumes 2.3 billion liters of fuel each year to deliver 5.2 million tonnes of seafood worth an estimated 7.7 billion euros , according to figures published in 2018.
Burning this fuel produces almost 7.3 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which is the same amount of CO2 emitted by all of Malta in 2019.
Yet the EU fishing industry avoids paying taxes of between 759 and 1.5 billion euros each year on this fuel, according to a report by the NGO Our Fish.
Now marine activists are calling on the European Commission to remove tax exemptions for the fishing industry as part of the current review of tax rules.
They say the ‘polluter pays’ principle should also apply to the EU fishing fleet, as it is responsible for burning fossil fuels.
Their report adds that this amount of money should be used to finance a transition to more energy-efficient fishing methods and the training of people for new jobs.
“These EU tax breaks not only worsen overfishing and jeopardize the health of the oceans, but they are also fueling climate change, the impacts of which will further disadvantage small-scale, low-impact fishermen,” said Rebecca Hubbard of Our Fish.
“At this stage of the climate emergency, every tonne of CO2 counts,” she added, stressing that reducing tax subsidies in the industry would accelerate the green transition in the sector.
According to Green MP Grace O’Sullivan, “[these] the subsidies have created a skewed system that prompts large vessels and fleets to engage in practices that actively harm the marine environment and deplete already threatened fish stocks. “
And they are “a key obstacle” to achieving emission reductions and reversing the biodiversity crisis, she added.
MEPs had previously called for the phasing out of all environmentally harmful subsidies by 2027.
As part of the Green Deal, the European Commission is revising the directive on energy taxation in order to align taxation with energy and climate policies.
But the review has been criticized for applying only a small nominal tax to the fishing industry.
“Tax exemptions for the fishing industry should be completely removed from the revised directive and all energy products taxed on the basis of their energy and carbon content,” Hubbard said.
The report also suggests that the removal of tax exceptions should be combined with an increase in the fisheries budget of EU member states in order to stimulate a more sustainable fisheries sector.