09/13/2011 01:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

EU Fishing Subsidies Keep Industry Afloat, Report Finds

While scientists warn there are not plenty of fish in the sea, a new report finds the European Union is sending fishermen around the globe in unsustainable numbers to find what is left.

These numbers come from heavy government subsidies that reached $4.5 billion in 2009, which is three times greater than typically quoted in public figures, and promotes a European fishing fleet that is up to three times bigger than sustainable limits, according to Oceana's "European Union and Fishing Subsidies" report.

"Fishing subsidies can create incentives to fish more, even when catches are declining," the report writes.

It says that in nearly half of EU countries, subsides are worth more than the actual catch.

Anne Schroeer, author of the report, told The Huffington Post the result was that too many vessels had been built and too much money had been put into building factories and modernizing vessels, which promoted unsustainable fishing practices.

She said the EU water fleet is sent all over the world rather than close to shores. This is made possible by subsidies covering items such as fuel, according to the report.

EU fishing fleets are found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, with widespread issues of illegal and unregulated fishing having a significant impact on fish stocks in non-European waters and developing countries, where coastal fish stocks provide food and livelihood for local communities.

Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director for Oceana, said in a press release: “Subsidies are a detriment to global competitiveness. Subsidies unfairly disadvantage coastal communities by reducing the cost of operations for industrial fishing fleets and increasing the number, size and power of boats competing for fish.”

A report by the World Bank wrote that global fisheries suffered economic losses of up to $50 billion a year from overfishing and inefficiencies in managing the industry.

According to Oceana, the subsidies allow destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling, where huge metal plates are scraped along the ocean floor and kill unwanted fish species that are thrown back to sea.

Fishupdate.com writes, "Even though subsidies that directly give incentives to the expansion of the fishing fleet - such as vessel construction, modernisation, and the export of fishing vessels - are not allowed under the EFF, there are a number of loopholes and exceptions, says Oceana."

The Oceana report says that according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, "85 percent of the world’s fisheries are now overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation."

Schoeer said subsidies, which in the EU mainly come from the European Fisheries Fund and Second Financial Instrument, "need to be stopped."