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Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR)

#Oceana: EU’s external fishing fleet to become the most transparent, accountable and sustainable globally following legal reform

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Oceana, Environmental Justice Foundation and WWF have welcomed a new regulation announced yesterday governing the European Union’s extensive external fishing fleet, which operates across the globe and is responsible for 28% of the EU’s total fish catches. After almost two years of negotiations, more than 23,000 vessels will need to follow the same sustainability standards, regardless of where they operate.

The new law hammered out between the European Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Fisheries Ministers will:

  • Make public for the first time official data on which vessels fish where. This will include private agreements – where an EU-flagged vessel makes a direct contract with the government of a non-EU coastal state to fish in its waters – making the EU external fleet the most transparent in the world;
  • require the same stringent standards for all vessels seeking authorization to fish outside EU waters;
  • stop so-called abusive reflagging, where a vessel repeatedly and rapidly changes its flag for the purposes of circumventing conservation measures, and;
  • ensure that fishing activities under private agreements meet EU standards. Previously those operating under such agreements were allowed to fish without any EU oversight and were not required to meet any EU management requirements. These vessels were operating under the radar, with no public or EU-wide information available on who fishes where.

The previous regulation, in place since 2008, resulted in unfair competition among operators, and prevented EU authorities from ensuring that vessels were fishing legally and sustainably. The new law removes these inconsistencies, and ensures that all vessels are subject to the same rigorous requirements in order to fish outside of EU waters.

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“The new rules are a major step forward for global transparency and the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The EU is leading by example and now others must do the same in all corners of the fishing world. Only with greater transparency can we eradicate IUU fishing, rebuild the world’s fisheries, and help the developing countries that depend heavily on this natural resource,” said María José Cornax, policy and advocacy director at Oceana in Europe.

“We strongly commend the European Union on these new measures to ensure the sustainability and accountability of its external fishing fleet. By implementing this new Regulation the EU will continue to lead the way in the global fight against illegal fishing. We now look to other countries to take notice and follow suit, putting in place similarly stringent standards for their vessels.  Of great importance will be action to make the data on where these vessels are fishing public for all to see. By doing so, they too will take vital steps to protect the rights of legitimate fishers and safeguard our oceans for the communities that rely on them for their food and livelihoods,” said Steve Trent, EJF executive director.

“WWF welcomes these progressive and ambitious fisheries governance policies which will undoubtedly benefit people, coastal communities, fish stocks and marine ecosystems. Europe is demonstrating its commitment to lead on sustainable and equitable international fisheries governance and to combating illegal fishing activities anywhere in the world,” said Dr Samantha Burgess, head of European Marine Policy, at WWF-EPO.

All above-mentioned organizations are part of a coalition of NGOs* pushing for an ambitious reform for the EU external fleet and that welcomed the agreement.

WhoFishesFar.org is a database created by the coalition and its partners, which makes public, for the first time, data on all fishing authorisations since 2008 (except private agreements) when the external fleet regulation was adopted, including data on foreign vessels fishing in EU waters. It shows that, during the period 2008-2015:

  • Certain fleets such as those of Belgium, Denmark, Estonia and Sweden, tended to operate close to European waters in the North East Atlantic
  • France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and UK were authorised to fish off the coasts of West-Central Africa (Cape VerdeIvory Coast, GabonGuineaGuinea-BissauMauritaniaMoroccoSão Tomé and Príncipeand Senegal)
  • French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and UK vessels operated in the Indian Ocean (in IOTC area, and under official EU access agreements with ComorosMadagascarMauritiusMozambique and Seychelles).
  • German, Polish and Spanish vessels were authorised to fish in Antarctic waters (in CCAMLR area)
  • - In the South Pacific vessels from the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Spain were authorised to fish (in SPRFMO area)
  • - European flagged vessels operating in the Western Pacific were all fish carriers (in WCPFC area)

Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR)

Fishing rules: Compulsory CCTV for certain vessels to counter infractions

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Parliament has adopted its negotiating position on the new Fisheries Control system, which will reform the rules that have governed EU fishing activities since 2010. Plenary session  PECH

By 401 votes in favour, 247 against and 47 abstentions, MEPs agreed to use new technologies to better enforce fishing rules and improve security and transparency. They also insist that consumers must know when, where and how the products they buy are caught.

The use of on-board cameras (CCTV) to carry out checks on landing obligations should be compulsory for a “minimum percentage” of vessels longer than 12 meters and which have been identified as “posing a serious risk of non-compliance”. The equipment will also be imposed as an accompanying sanction for all vessels that commit two or more serious infringements. Vessels that are willing to adopt CCTV on a voluntary basis should be offered incentives such as additional allocation of quotas or having their infringement points removed.

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MEPs back the proposal to harmonise sanctions and demand that a “European Union Register” of infringements be set up to centralise information from all member states. They also call for an “appropriate system of sanctions” for infringements committed by recreational fishermen.

Reduce waste, increase security and transparency

In line with the EU’s Farm-to-Fork Strategy, Parliament demands that the origin of fishery and aquaculture products must be traceable throughout the whole food chain, including processed and imported products. Data on the species of fish, the location, date and time it was caught, and the type of gear used should be made available.

lara AGUILERA (S&D, ES), rapporteur, said: “We took important steps towards having common rules. Inspections on fisheries in Spain must not differ from those in Denmark, Poland or Italy. They must be harmonised and more efficient, without resulting in more red tape for the sector.”

In an effort to reduce marine litter, MEPs agree that all vessels should be obliged to notify national authorities when they lose fishing gear and to carry on board the necessary equipment to retrieve it.

All vessels should also be equipped with a geolocation device allowing them to be automatically located and identified, a measure deemed necessary to improve security at sea, according to the adopted text.

Parliament also proposes to increase the margin of error accepted on the weight of some species estimated by fishermen on board (margin of tolerance).

Next Steps

With today’s vote, Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with Council. According to the current proposal, operators would have four years following the entry into force of the rules to equip vessels with the new technologies required.

Background

On 5 February, the Committee on Fisheries adopted its position regarding the EU’s Fisheries Control system. The proposal updates five existing regulations and harmonise control and inspection systems, as well as sanctions, across EU countries.

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Brexit

Britain secured a good deal on fish, says senior member of negotiating team

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A trade deal between Britain and the European Union is a good agreement for the fisheries industry, allowing it to rebuild itself during a five-and-a-half year transition, a senior member of the UK’s negotiating team said on Tuesday (29 December), write Elizabeth Piper and Paul Sandle.

Fisheries groups have criticized the deal, saying the industry had been sacrificed in the post-Brexit trade talks.

“The deal we’ve got recognises UK sovereignty over our fishing waters, it says that up front,” the senior member of the negotiating team said.

“We think this is a good deal. This enables the fishing industry to rebuild itself during the transition, we are investing £100 million into programmes to help modernize the fish processing industry over this period,” he said.

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Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR)

AGRIFISH Council: Ministers decide fishing opportunities for 2021 in the North-East Atlantic and for deep-sea stocks

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On 17 December, the Council agreed on fishing opportunities for 2021 for the fish stocks managed by the EU in the North-East Atlantic, based on a proposal made by the Commission. As regards stocks that will be shared with the UK, The Council also decided as a transition measure to proportionally roll over the 2020 total allowable catches (TACs), with a few limited exceptions, as proposed by the Commission. This will ensure fishing opportunities in the exceptional circumstances surrounding the still ongoing negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. These measures complement the Commission's contingency proposal from last week, which provides for the possibility of reciprocal fishing access by EU and UK vessels to each other's waters, if and when agreed between the EU and the UK, and all conditions for the continuation of the EU fishing operations have been met.

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “I am very pleased that for the stocks the EU is managing on its own, we have brought eight total allowable catches in line with the levels that guarantee the maximum sustainable yields from those stocks. EU ministers have followed my proposals on the precautionary approach for nine fish catch quotas. This is a step in the right direction. The Commission proposal was very ambitious and I welcome today's overall good outcome. We have also managed to respond to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and secure continued fishing for all EU fishermen and women. Vessels can take to the sea on 1 January 2021 and the fishing sector can be reassured that their business is recognized as a priority for the EU.”

The Council has also decided on sustainable catch limits for southern seabass (Bay of Biscay) in line with maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The Council has continued the protection of the vulnerable deep-sea sharks through a prohibition of fishing of this species. In line with the Commission proposal, the Council has agreed to set very limited bycatch for cod in Kattegat (123 tonnes), and roundnose grenadier in Skagerrak and Kattegat (5 tonnes), and a scientific TAC for nephrops in the southern Bay of Biscay (2.4 tonnes). More information is available Commissioner Sinkevičius' press statement and online.

Based on the Commission's proposal, EU ministers agreed fishing opportunities for 2021 for the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Sinkevičius said: “In line with our political commitments made in the MedFish4Ever and Sofia Declarations, we implemented in EU law ambitious measures taken in the context of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). On the Western Mediterranean multiannual plan, I regret that ministers were not ready to agree on higher effort reductions, which would have allowed us to restore the fish stocks to sustainable levels faster and to ensure the long-term social and economic viability of the fishermen and women operating in the region. I welcome, however, that the effort reduction will be accompanied by additional national measures to protect the stocks."

For the Mediterranean, the regulation agreed by ministers continues the implementation of the EU multiannual management plan for demersal stocks in the Western Mediterranean, adopted in June 2019, by reducing the fishing effort by 7.5%. The Regulation also introduces measures adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean in 2018 and 2019, in particular measures for eel, red coral, dolphinfish, small pelagic species and demersal stocks in the Adriatic and deep water shrimps stocks in the Ionian Sea, Levant Sea and the Strait of Sicily. For the Black Sea, the quotas for turbot and sprat are maintained at the 2020 level. More information is available Commissioner Sinkevičius' press statement and online.

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