You might not think that the criminal underworld smells of sea salt and fish guts, but when there are millions of euros up for grabs for Europe's fishing fleet the crooks with hooks surface.
Our recent investigation exposed a shocking tale of organised crime and vested interests related to Spain's industrial scale fishing fleet. We also discovered the Spanish government putting the profits of its fleet over healthy fish stocks. We put the spotlight on ‘Tono’, Spain’s most notorious fishing baron and head of the Vidal family network of fishing operators. Even though they have a list of convictions for illegal fishing, their network continues to operate a fleet of ships, endangering vital fish stocks.
Astonishingly since 2002, they have received at least 15.8 million euros in subsides. That means that European tax payers have been funding the activities of this illegal fishing network for years.
Spain has the largest, most destructive and most lucrative fishing fleet in Europe. It also receives the most EU subsidies – more than 1.1 billion Euros.
The Spanish government is prioritising the short term interests of industrial scale fishing fleets at the expense of long-term sustainable fisheries management. And they can do this because the rules that governs European fishing - the Common Fisheries Policy - are broken and permitt public money to benefit the most destructive companies, like Tono’s.
Vested interests make Spain the leading nation blocking radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. But we have an opportunity to change that over the coming year. The CFP is undergoing a once in a decade reform process with new regulation coming in from January 2013.
But if there is to be any chance of reform then politicians like Richard Benyon, the UK’s Fisheries Minister, and others who support radical reform will have to stand up to the Spanish fishing barons and their representatives in Brussels.
The EU must stop paying for illegal fishing. We need a new fisheries policy that prevents overfishing and supports a healthy and sustainable fishing industry. Sign up to get email updates to find out how you can help in the coming weeks and months.
Read our full report below.