The European Union’s top fisheries official, Commissioner Maria Damanaki, said her office is investigating Spanish shipowners’ involvement in illegal fishing and possible misappropriations of EU funding. The announcement comes in the wake of articles published Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The stories detailed how billions of euros in subsidies support Spanish companies that have violated fishing laws.
One of the stories focused on a family-controlled firm in northwestern Spain, Vidal Armadores, which received at least €8.2 million in subsidies while it faced more than 40 allegations of illegal fishing.
“The serious allegations are already under investigation by the European Commission and being followed up with the Spanish national authorities,” Damanaki said in a press release. “We are establishing all facts in order to pursue breaches.”
Meanwhile the leading lobbyist for the Spanish fishing sector told the Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo that ICIJ’s analysis showing the industry received nearly €6 billion since 2000 “does not reflect reality.” Javier Garat said the industry will only get about €4.5 billion between 2000-2013. But his figures only included direct subsidies from the European Union. ICIJ’s analysis of the subsidies included other important forms of public aid such as tax breaks or subsidized fishing rights in foreign waters. ICIJ did not base its calculation on estimates. Reporters analyzed thousands of pages of data on money already paid to the industry.
Two more stories in the series will be published tomorrow and Thursday. The ICIJ stories have so-far been re-published or cited by outlets around the world, including The Sunday Times, El País, El Mundo, The New York Times, EU Observer, Huffington Post and the BBC.