Author: Vanya Vulperhorst
On December 5th, members of the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament will have their only chance to vote this year to make a huge improvement to the way the European fishing vessels are regulated when fishing abroad. It is a vital opportunity to make sure that the EU’s fleet, one of the largest in the world, meets the highest standards for accountable, transparent and sustainable fishing.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, and risks the livelihoods of decent fishermen and developing coastal communities who depend on ocean resources.
By introducing the IUU Regulation in 2010, the European Union (EU) became an active leader in eradicating IUU fishing on a global scale. Furthermore, the current Common Fisheries Policy strengthens the EU stance against IUU by making sure EU vessels operating both within and outside European waters meet high fishing standards for sustainability and transparency.
Oceana, together with its partners, is working to ensure the effective implementation of the EU IUU Regulation. In 2015, we launched WhoFishesFar.org , a comprehensive fishing transparency website, making data provided by the European Commission on the EU external fleet publicly available for the first time ever.
Statistics presented in whofishesfar.org reveal that under the current external fleet regulation some 22,000 EU vessels have been authorised to operate in non-EU waters between 2008-2015. The list, however, does not include vessels operating under so called “private agreements” with third countries. This lack of information allows the EU vessels to circumvent EU laws, since there is very little control over their activities.
To ensure greater transparency, sustainability and accountability of the activities of the EU’s external fishing fleet and eliminate inconsistencies in the system, the European Commission proposed a renewed regulation in 2015 that would replace the current Fishing Authorization Regulation (FAR) that has been in use since 2008 and that governs the activities of the EU fishing fleets across the world’s oceans.
The European Commission’s strong proposal, which aims to guarantee that the activities of the EU fleet are following the objectives set under the Common Fisheries Policy, is currently being revised by the European fisheries ministers in the Council and members of the European Parliament. Although ministers have already agreed a joint position in June, the proposal still needs to be voted on in the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament on December 5th.
Oceana and its partners are advocating for a new robust law that would:
- Include a publicly available database of all external authorisations for EU vessels fishing outside EU waters, including detailed information on the name and flag of the vessel, its owner and beneficial owner, the type of authorisation under which the vessels operate and the allowed time and zone of fishing activity.
- Set high standards for all private agreements signed between EU fishing companies and developing countries to ensure compliance with EU fisheries and labour laws.
- Make IMO (International Maritime Organization) numbers mandatory for EU vessels applying for an authorisation to fish outside EU waters.
- Stop EU vessels from engaging in ‘reflagging’ activities that allow the vessels flagged to an EU member state to change their flag to a non-EU flag state to avoid sanctions and continue fishing in a specific region after exhausting the EU quotas
It is of the utmost importance that the members of the European Parliament support these measures to ensure that, under the new external fishing fleet regulation, all EU fishing vessels are subject to common standards and requirements and their fishing activities are transparent and sustainable. By supporting these key elements, the European Parliament and the EU will reinforce their leadership on global fisheries governance.