When we trust a bank with our savings and investments, we assume the bank will do only “good” with our hard-earned cash. Yet throughout Europe, and the world, major banks have ploughed massive amounts of money into unsustainable enterprises that are bad for the planet, including the destruction of our oceans.
Europe’s fishing and seafood laws are changing – for the better. This is great for the marine environment and for those who choose to fish sustainably. It’s not such good news for those who make their money from destructive or unselective ways of catching fish.
Greenpeace wants to make bankers and investors aware of this new reality, which is why we’re publishing “Risky Business – Why Smart Investors Must Avoid Unsustainable Seafood Operations”; to show how sweeping changes to the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will have a radical effect on the profitability of fishing companies that rely on a business model of overfishing and destructive fishing – and the seafood market in general.
Under the new rules, fishing opportunities will be reduced for stocks that have been overfished and a ‘no-discards’ policy will be need to be observed, making unselective fishing operations more costly. EU fishing capacity will need to be brought down and higher sustainability standards applied to EU fishing vessels operating beyond Europe’s waters.
The EU fishing community is being encouraged to shift towards environmentally sustainable methods. As a result, the net is closing on Europe’s industrial fishing operators. Companies like France’s Sapmer and Spain’s Inpesca S.A and Albacora S.A have spent decades profiting from destructive fishing practices, weak fisheries policies, large subsidies and arguably naïve financial investments.
Since 2009, Sapmer has invested heavily in the construction of at last eight new tuna purse seiners for operation in the Indian Ocean. In 2012, France’s L’Agence Francaise de Développement (AFD) lent €13 million to Sapmer for construction of tuna purse seiner Belouve.
Previously, in 2010, BRED and Banque de la Réunion Groupe BPCE loaned Sapmer €75 million to construct three tuna purse seiners. The UK’s Barclays Bank also loaned €4.25 million to one of Sapmer’s subsidiaries.
Despite all this, Sapmer is in financial difficulties, reporting a €11.9 million loss in 2014, and has delayed plans to construct ten new tuna vessels.
Spain’s BBVA loaned Inpesca S.A., owner of monster boat Txori Argi, €6.4 million in 2011. In 2012, the vessel was caught without a fishing licence in Mozambique’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and fined €1.2 million. It was released after BBVA guaranteed payment of the fine, but Mozambique’s government was unable to cash the guarantee and asked the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to put the Txori Argi on the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated list. The case was settled in 2013 for $700,000 (€523,581)
Kutxabank, BBVA, Banco Santander, Caixa Galicia (now merged known as Abanca) and La Caixa together loaned around €15.7 million Albacora S.A. as of December 2012. Albacora S.A owns the monster boats Albacora Uno and Albatun Tres: both vessels have been convicted of illegal tuna fishing activities in the Western Central Pacific.
But worry not, financiers: the good news is that sustainable investment opportunities do exist, like selective, low-impact fishing operations – such as hand line and pole and line fisheries – which should benefit from greater access to fishing opportunities under the new CFP. The new rules foresee that access to fishing opportunities will be reorganised, moving to a system that is performance-based and incentivises low-impact fishing.
This truly a wake up for the finance and banking sector, who have a real chance to become agents of positive change within the fishing industry. Clued-in investors should take note of the new cultures of ethical investment and divestment from unsustainable business that are taking hold across the world and begin transferring funding towards low-impact, sustainable fisheries businesses that ensure healthy oceans and healthy fisheries for the future.
Risky Business – Why Smart Investors Must Avoid Unsustainable Seafood Operations
Nina Thuellen is the fisheries project leader for Greenpeace in Europe.
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