HUGE amounts of money given to several environmental lobby groups working on European fishing issues by the charity Oak Foundations are being questioned by the fishing industry.
The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations says more that US $24-million has been paid a wide range of NGOs since 2006 with names like Greenpeace, Oceana and Seas At Risk among the main recipients.
"What are we to make of the astounding sums of money?, " asks the Federation. "It is hard to deny the many good intentions and motivations that lie behind the Foundation's donations. Good work is done across a wide range of issues including slavery, housing and child protection. The NFFO poses the question: "But what are the implications of this scale of external funding to the fishing sector, fisheries managers, fisheries scientists and the democratic process?"
It says Oak’s stated aims in relation to the marine environment are to:-
1. Improve ocean governance and the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources
2. Mitigate impacts of large scale industrialisation on local communities, and
3. Reduce overfishing and foster community-based stewardship of marine resources
With regard to European fisheries policy, Oak’s aim is to fund "organisations that ensure the European fleet operates sustainable practices either in European waters or elsewhere".
The main Oak initiatives within this approach are to:-
1. Recover fish stocks and ecosystem health through the aims of the overarching Common Fisheries Policy and ensure its implementation
2. Promote growth of sustainable seafood in Europe through demand and supply side initiatives; and
3. Increase stakeholder engagement; improve fisheries management decision making and provide the pressure parliamentarians require to support progressive fisheries policy.
The NFFO said it was possible to question at least some of the assumptions that lie behind this choice of initiatives but the main feature of Oak's approach is its reliance on external third party intervention to achieve its goals.
"Oak has apparently concluded that the best way to secure its objectives is to fund NGOs external to the fishing industry who are presumed to know better (or at least be better positioned) to secure the changes that Oak would like to see implemented.
"This approach may have its origin in other fields, where it may or not be successful, but the underlying assumptions with regard to European fisheries seem to be:
1. Being disinterested (in the financial sense), NGOs apparently know better than fishermen, fisheries managers and fisheries scientists what is required to put European fisheries on the road to salvation
2. The European Parliament is the appropriate vehicle to determine top-down rules that will oblige the fishing industry, and by implication fisheries managers, to behave in sustainable ways
3. It is possible and productive to lead consumers away from unsustainable to sustainable fish consumption, through information campaigns of various kinds
The Federation adds: "This is where we have serious concerns about the direction in which Oak funding will take the Common Fisheries Policy if it is successful in achieving its aims. It is exactly the top-down, well intentioned but misconceived, prescriptive, over-centralised, micro-management approach that has led the CFP to under-perform so spectacularly over the last 20 years. It is precisely the paternalist command and control assumptions that "we know best" that led to the catastrophic divide between the managers and the managed - that is only now being repaired.
" Our view is that third parties like NGOs can't in the final analysis make the difference - precisely because they are third parties.This is not to say that NGOs do not have a legitimate and important role to play in challenging the industry where it needs challenging. But putting all the Oak eggs in the NGO basket seems to us to be its Achilles heel in its approach to fisheries. And what eggs they are!"
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