EU: transparency and fisheries subsidies

A few days ago the website http://www.fishsubsidy.org/ was launched. This website, funded by the U.S. based non-profit organisation "The Pew Charitable Trust", has the aim "to obtain detailed data relating to payments and recipients of payments under the EU's common fisheries policy and make this data available in a way that is useful to European citizens." (see FAQs in http://www.fishsubsidy.org/).

From a practical perspective, the website allows the user to make queries on, for example, the amounts of money paid to the different EU countries from 1994 to 2006, with the possibility to know the beak-down, even at vessel level.

According to fishsubsidy.org the information comes from "the European Commission, which compiled it from data submitted by EU national governments that actually administer the common fisheries policy"(see FAQs in http://www.fishsubsidy.org/).

In an article published on June 30, 2009 in the Irish Examiner, Ann Cahill, the Brussels correspondent, notes that:

"Some of the information on the new website does not make sense however. According to the results for Ireland, Sligo is the biggest recipient of subsidies while a boat fishing out of Sligo is the top Irish beneficiary. Killybegs, on the other hand, one of the countries biggest ports, is not mentioned at all. Meantime the boat that got the second biggest subsidy is Irish registered but fishes out of a German port.

The problem goes back to the member state where they fill in the information with no standardisation of the type of information either nationally or EU-wide, making it very difficult to get a clear picture. So Sligo is mentioned because it is one of the places in the country where boats can be registered. And Killybegs is hidden in the northwest region category. So far nobody can explain the German connection. The name of those who own the vessels receiving half the EU subsidies is missing too, as only the boat’s name is given. In Ireland the Mark Amay was the top recipient getting over €1 million."

Here is the link to the article in the Irish Examiner


Concerning these anomalies www.fishsubsidy.org states that:

"The data presented on this website has been obtained from the European Commission. In several cases we have discovered discrepancies, inaccuracies and straightforward mistakes in the data released to us and wherever possible we have queried this and often obtained corrected data. Ultimately, the data available on this site is only as good as the data we have received from the Commission.

Despite the errors we have uncovered, we believe that the data is reasonably reliable. Among the most common errors are the following: misspellings and irregular spelling of place names; incorrect years (you may notice years as early as 1960 and as far into the future as 2264); incorrect recording of municipalities (in some cases the names of whole regions, e.g. Galicia, or entire countries, e.g. Italia, have been given as a municipality. We have corrected the most obvious mistakes that we have detected such as misspellings of place names but in general we have taken the decision to publish the data as it has been presented to us, mistakes and all. We believe doing so will encourage better record-keeping by the responsible authorities (see FAQs in http://www.fishsubsidy.org/)."

Personally I find this website a very interesting initiative. Actually I suggest that such websites should be set-up for each country that is providing subsidies to its fishing industry.

In this regard, my advice to those working in the project is that they rename the website as fishsubsidy-eu.org. In the same way they could launch similar websites, such as fishsubsidy-usa.org (USA), fishsusidy‑jp.org (Japan), fishsubsidy-br.org (Brazil), fishsubsidy-ca.org (Canada), fishsubsidy-in.org (India), fishsubsidy-no.org (Norway), etc.

I will come back on the subject of transparency and the WTO in a later post.

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