The EU has, for more than twenty years, entered into agreements with developing countries to gain access to their coastal fishing waters in return for financial compensation. In principle, the EU will fish only where there is a surplus stock which the local fleet does not have the capacity to catch. In practice – because of the difficulties of accurately estimating stock levels, and because short-term economic interests have taken priority over sustainable development – it seems likely that the EU fleet has fished beyond sustainable levels. Eighty percent of the economic benefits of the EU’s external fishing agreements go to the Spanish fleet, with Portugal, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, Poland and Lithuania also benefiting. By paying financial compensation to third countries, the EU in effect subsidises its Member States’ fleets.