Source & Author: Victoria Mundy*
On 25th October 2016, the European Parliament passed a resolution setting out concrete proposals to improve the uniformity and quality of fisheries controls across the European Union. The resolution emphasises the need for strengthened procedures and sanctions to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and identifies significant disparities in the effectiveness and rigour of fisheries controls between EU member states, to the detriment of a fair and equitable European fishing industry.
The resolution sends a strong message to the European Commission and member states on the need to ensure uniform and effective implementation of EU fisheries regulations. It emphasises, in particular, the Commission’s role in overseeing full adoption of the regulations, and in verifying the status of implementation across member states.
The main calls for action relate to the EU Fisheries Control Regulation[i], which aims to ensure compliance of fishing activities – by the EU fleet and within EU waters – with the sustainability standards set out in the EU Common Fisheries Policy. At the end of 2015, the Commission launched an evaluation of the Fisheries Control Regulation, inviting input from stakeholders and the public on the impacts of the Regulation, five years after it entered into force. The Commission’s decision on whether or not the Regulation is to be opened to revision is expected shortly. Crucially, in its resolution, the Parliament expresses its firm opposition to the Regulation being weakened during any such revision process.
The resolution furthermore advocates for improved implementation of the EU Regulation to combat IUU fishing (the IUU Regulation)[ii], an ambitious measure that came into force alongside the Fisheries Control Regulation on 1 January 2010. Describing IUU fishing and related trade as a “criminal activity on a global scale”, the resolution stresses the need for stricter controls on fisheries imports and the importance of a united EU front to prevent illegally sourced products from entering the European market.
The Fisheries Control Regulation and IUU Regulation are two of the three pillars of the EU’s fisheries control system, the third being the regulation governing the EU’s external fishing fleet[iii]. The external fleet regulation is currently being updated to ensure that the EU fleet adheres to CFP principles when fishing outside EU waters.
The Parliament proposes a number of recommendations to address present inequalities and inefficiencies in the EU’s systems and frameworks for fisheries control. Among other measures, the resolution supports the use of risk assessment to more effectively direct enforcement actions – as required by both the Fisheries Control and IUU Regulations – which should be based on transparent, specific and measurable minimum criteria, defined at the EU level. To strengthen controls on fisheries imports, the resolution advocates establishing specialist national intelligence teams to improve detection of risks, and defining a minimum percentage of consignments that must be checked by member states. The Commission and member states are also encouraged to consider the development of harmonised, minimum level penalties for serious infringements or repeated illegal behaviour, with the imposition of harsher sanctions for IUU fishing.
Further recommendations are made inter alia with regard to the standardisation of training for fisheries inspectors, the expansion of controls to cover the entire fish production chain, the publication of information on sanctions applied by member states, and the development of IT systems for information exchange and data analysis across the EU. The resolution, including the full list of recommendations, is available here.
*Victoria Mundy is the policy researcher for a coalition of non-governmental organisations working to secure the harmonised and effective implementation of the European Union’s Regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
[i] Council Regulation (EC) No. 1224/2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy.
[ii] Council Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
[iii] Currently, Council Regulation (EC) No. 1006/2008 concerning authorisations for fishing activities of Community fishing vessels outside Community waters and the access of third country vessels to Community waters. The European Commission’s proposal for a new regulation on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets (2015/636) was published in December 2015 and will replace Council Regulation (EC) No 1006/2008. Further information may be found here.