Nets Data that Demonstrate Government’s Role in Overfishing

An interactive map on shows the allocation of EU subsidies in the fishing industry.

Misuse of European Union subsidies aimed at tackling overfishing has put increased pressure on dwindling fish stocks. Taxpayer subsidies to the tune of 1 billion euros are paid each year to owners of fishing vessels and others working in the fishing industry under the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy. While ostensibly intended to address overfishing, many say the subsidies are just a handout to the corporate commercial fishing industry. is a website that provides data to help prove this point. Run by a network of European journalists, researchers, and activists, and funded in part by Pew Environmental Group, gives detailed data related to payments and recipients under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

The focus of the website’s ire is the way that taxpayer funds are misdirected. Many marine and environmental groups say the funds could be used to increase and improve enforcement of fishing regulations in European waters and to stop illegal fishing. The funds could also be put toward research that would more effectively identify which stocks are endangered, and toward technology that would improve threatened stocks.

Instead, critics say, the EU handouts went to measures that encourage overfishing, such as modernizing fleets and building new vessels.

According to the Environmental Working Group, U.S. taxpayers doled out more than $6.4 billion in subsidies to the commercial fishing industry between 1996 and 2004, and the funds also went largely to activities that encouraged overfishing.

An interactive map on shows the payments made by port, and even to individual vessels, and gives details on how much of the funds went to modernizing vessels, building new ships, or scrapping vessels.

The organization also publishes research and looks at new data that reveal how the EU subsidizes fishing vessels that break the law.