Richest fishermen get biggest subsidies

Twenty of country’s highest-earning fishermen received 57 percent of state’s aid to fisheries

November 9th, 2011 4:41 pm| by admin

During a seven-year period under the previous government, the majority of state fishing subsidies went to a handful of the largest and most profitable fishermen.

Government accounting records obtained by Politiken newspaper reveal that between 2004 and 2010 under theVenstre-Konservative (VK) government, a small minority of fishermen received the majority of the 379 million kroner in taxpayer-supported fishing subsidies.

Nearly 1,400 professional fishermen received state subsidies, but just 20 of them received 57 percent of the total aid money distributed between 2004 and 2010. A number of those 20 have prominent positions with fishermenÂ’s union Danmarks Fiskeriforening (DFF), and are large earners with millions in assets, Politiken reports.

Gullak Madsen, a fisherman from Hirtshals, received the most public support of anyone during the seven year period: 23 million kroner. Yet, last year his company recorded pre-tax profits of 80 million kroner and assets worth 769 million kroner. He acknowledged that he did not need the state fishing subsidy – even though he collected 23 million kroner of it.

“If it was just about me they could very well stop it, but I don’t think that would be fair to the [fishermen] who are just getting started,” Madsen told Politiken.

DFF president Svend Erik Andersen was another of the 20 fishermen who received the most funds from the state. He would not comment on whether the subsidy was fair.

“I’m not going to take a position on whether people are well-off or not. If they meet the requirements, then they should have the right to ask for the money,” he said.

Marine biologist Hanne Lyng Winther from Greenpeace said that high-volume fishermen using trawlers, by and large get the lionÂ’s share of public funding to support their businesses.

“The support ought to go to environmentally sustainable fisheries, instead of mindlessly pumping taxpayer money into big industrial trawlers that are destroying the marine ecosystem,” Winther said.

The new food, agriculture and fisheries minister, Mette Gjerskov did not think the stateÂ’s money had been distributed fairly.

“Some really, really big sums were paid out under the previous government, and I will just say that it’s not the way that I would have distributed the funds,” Gjerskov, a Socialdemokrat, told Politiken.

Gjerskov said she would push for new policies enforcing and rewarding environmentally-sustainable fishing.

The EU is expected to adopt a new fishing policy in 2012.

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