BRUSSELS — Europe's fishing industry is being "paid to overfish", with subsidies totalling 3.3 billion euros in 2009, or half the value of the yearly catch, environmental group Oceana said Tuesday.
"Taxpayers are literally paying for fishermen to overfish," said Courtney Sakai of Oceana in a statement.
Fishermen receive European Union subsidies as well as handouts from states that in 2009 exceeded revenue from the catch in 13 EU states, Oceana said in a report.
It estimated the total value of the catch that year for Europe's industry at 6.6 billion euros.
Leading heavily-subsidised nations was Spain, with 733.9 million euros, followed by France with 361.9 million, Denmark at 307.3 million and Britain with 264.7 million.
"During these difficult economic times, it is shameful that governments are using hard-earned taxpayer money to destroy a natural resource that more than a billion people depend on worldwide," the group said.
Asked to respond, a spokesman for EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki recalled that cutting back subsidies was "one of the priorities of fisheries policy."
A sweeping reform proposed by Damanaki, which aims at improving sustainability, has yet to be approved by member states and the European Parliament.
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