More than 840 million in support for fisheries were spent efficiently, but it failed to increase the consumption of freshwater fish in the Czech Republic

Press release on audit No 22/15– 24 July 2023

A total of CZK 843.3 million earmarked by the end of 2022 to support fisheries in the Czech Republic from the Operational Programme "Fisheries 2014-2020" (OP Fisheries) was provided by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) efficiently, economically and in accordance with legal regulations. A total of 888 projects were supported as of 31 December 2022. However, neither the objective of the OP Fisheries to create producer organisations nor the objective of the national strategy, which was to increase the consumption of freshwater fish in the Czech Republic, were met. This is evident from the results of the Supreme Audit Office (SAO) audit, which examined how the MoA, the State Agricultural Intervention Fund (SAIF) and 11 selected beneficiaries managed the funds of the OP Fisheries between the years 2014 and 2021.

According to the auditors, the specific objectives of the OP Fisheries are continuously being fulfilled by the MoA and the beneficiaries of the support. The objectives are interrelated and there is a realistic expectation for their fulfilment. Only for the measures to support innovation did the MoA not set appropriate indicators to provide sufficient information on the benefits of these innovations in practice. The MoA therefore has no overview of the extent to which, and if at all, innovations are actually being introduced into fishing practice.

One of the intentions of the OP Fisheries was to establish producer organisations in the Czech Republic, i.e. associations of fish breeders and processors ensuring centralised purchase and sale of products. Their establishment was intended, among other things, to strengthen the position of producers in negotiations with particularly strong commercial chains. However, it has turned out that, mainly because of the obligation to share their economic and social data, fishermen were not interested in joining producer organisations. Even the simplification of the rules has not led to the establishment of at least one producer organisation. The MoA therefore moved the unused allocation to other measures.

Although the objective to increase consumption of freshwater fish is not listed among the objectives of the OP Fisheries, it is included in the "Multi-annual National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture until 2024". The MoA set up a contributory organisation, the 'MoA Services Facility', which was tasked, inter alia, with promoting freshwater fish, e.g. through the 'Fish on Plate' campaign. The MoA Service Facility planned to carry out a total of 27 promotional projects. As a result of administrative errors or other shortcomings in the submitted applications for subsidies, the MoA eventually approved and reimbursed only five projects under the OP Fisheries.

Promotional activities have not led to an increase in the consumption of freshwater fish in the Czech Republic. While in 2017, the average annual consumption of fish per inhabitant of the Czech Republic was 1.29 kg, in 2021 it was even slightly less - only 1.23 kg. Freshwater fish consumption is therefore stagnating in the Czech Republic.

The SAO auditors also pointed out that the MoA did not set financial limits for expenditure related to promotional campaigns. According to the auditors, this did not create sufficient conditions for the economical use of funds.

Czech fisheries in numbers

0.01 - 0.02 % Share of the fisheries sector in the total GDP of the Czech Republic in the years 2011 - 2018
919 Number of employees in the fisheries sector in the Czech Republic in 2020
0.02% Share of employees in the fisheries sector in the total number of employees in the Czech Republic in 2020
More than 24 000 Number of ponds and reservoirs in the Czech Republic
Almost 52 000 ha Total area of ponds and reservoirs in the Czech Republic
1.23 kg Average per capita consumption of freshwater fish in the Czech Republic in 2021

The economic importance of the fisheries sector in the Czech Republic is marginal. It is, however, balanced by the benefits in the form of non-productive functions of ponds - in particular, water accumulation in the landscape, water retention during floods or provision of sport and recreational functions. All this is also, among other things, the purpose of the support from the OP Fisheries for the preservation of traditional Czech aquaculture.

Communication Department
Supreme Audit Office

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