Spanish fleet accused of law-breaking lands massive EU subsidies

Greenpeace urges Commission to end 'corrupted' fisheries policy

Spanish fishermen suspected of landing illegal catches are receiving multimillion-euro payouts from European Union taxpayers, according to a Greenpeace report published today.

In one case alone, European Commission (EC) officials are investigating subsidy payments to a group of companies affiliated to the Vidal family, from Galicia, which are thought to have received more than €15m in subsidies between 2002 and 2009, part of which come from the European Fisheries Fund (EEF), to which the UK contributes.

Companies connected to the family continue to receive subsidies despite alleged links to repeated incidents of illegal fishing. The report says at least seven of the vessels have been convicted for offences, including fishing without a licence, falsifying information and obstructing inspections.

The commission is also looking at how more than €€6m of subsidies given to Biomega Nutrición, a fish-oil factory, was used. The company, which has yet to open its factory, was originally registered to Manuel Antonio Vidal Pego, believed to be the head of the family, but has since changed its records. A factory spokesman denied any involvement with Vidal Pego when questioned by The Independent on Sunday.

Vidal Pego was convicted by US authorities in 2006 for smuggling illegally caught Patagonian toothfish. He and his father, Antonio Vidal Suárez, have stakes in a range of companies based in Spain, South America and Africa. The five Spanish companies that received subsidies are all thought to be run by members of Vidal Pego's family, including his father and two uncles.

One Cornish vessel, allegedly linked to the family, was indicted in the UK for having illegally fished shark fins, worth more than £1m, last year.

The report will add pressure to the much-criticised Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which regulates European fishing. The EC is considering a massive reform of the CFP. Britain contributes approximately €110m per year to European Fisheries Policies, with a significant amount of that going towards subsidies.

Ariana Densham, a Greenpeace oceans campaigner, who led the nine-month report, described the system as "broken". "According to some estimates, up to 49 per cent of the global catch is illegal, unreported and unregulated, and this is one of the main reasons why our fisheries are in such rapid decline.

"The fact that in Europe this theft of fish is being subsidised by taxpayers' money, that we're paying pirates to steal our fish, destroy one of our oldest industries and devastate the marine environment, shows just how corrupted the CFP is," she said.

The Spanish fleet is more than twice the size of the UK's and will have received more than €1bn in subsidies between 2007 and 2013 – the EU's largest. Greenpeace claims Spain "systematically" fails to report illegal fishing and continues to fund convicted companies, yet still enjoys a privileged position at European level.

European fish stocks are dangerously threatened, the commission says, with three out of four species described as overfished, including 82 per cent of Mediterranean stocks and 63 per cent of the Atlantic's. The EU fleet catches two to three times more fish than is sustainable, and suggested reforms to the CFP, announced in July, focus on ensuring all stocks are at "sustainable levels" by 2015. Illegal fishing is considered one of the most serious threats to fish stock management.

A "serious fraud investigation" is being carried out into the Vidal fleet by the EU Fisheries Commission. Maria Damanaki, the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "The serious allegations are already under investigation and being followed up with the Spanish authorities. We are establishing all facts to pursue any breaches."

The UK fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, said: "Illegal fishing is putting British fishermen at a competitive disadvantage and could be disastrous for our oceans. That's why the UK is leading the fight to clamp down on illegal fishing and overhaul the broken and wasteful quota system."

The IoS attempted to contacted all five of the firms linked to the Vidal family but none responded.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003