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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Commission proposes to stamp out pirate fishing
The European Commission today unveiled a major policy initiative aimed at eliminating illegal fishing activities by attacking the main driver behind them: short-term profit. Ignoring all rules, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, distorts competition for honest fishermen and weakens costal communities, particularly in developing countries. As one of the major fishing powers and as the largest market in fisheries products in the world, the EU has a major role to play in stamping out IUU fishing. Todays proposed measures would allow access to the EU market only to fisheries products that have been certified as legal by the flag state or the exporting state concerned. A European black list of IUU vessels and of states which turn a blind eye to IUU activities would be set up as would deterrent sanctions against IUU activities in EU waters and against EU operators engaged in IUU activities anywhere in the world. The fight against illegal fishing is part of the EU drive to ensure the sustainable use of the sea which underpins the proposed integrated maritime policy adopted by the Commission last week. Todays package contains a Communication and a proposal for a Council Regulation.
European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg, commented, "There must be zero tolerance for pirate fishing which rewards only those who steal fish resources. To the rest of the world, IUU fishing only brings grief through overfishing, habitats destruction and unfair competition. Determined action, full commitment and cooperation at all levels throughout the world are essential to eradicate these unacceptable practices. The EU needs to lead by example and todays proposal makes this possible."
With an estimated global turnover of 10 billion a year, IUU fishing rivals the main world producers in terms of value. Products from IUU imports into the EU have been conservatively estimated at over 1.1 billion. Todays Communication describes the causes, scale and damages of IUU fishing, its impact on the EU, the efforts made so far and the need for further action. It identifies the three main challenges to be tackled:
* identify, prevent and sanction the imports of IUU products into the EU.
* deter not only IUU operators but also the states that engage in or tolerate IUU fishing.
* ensure better compliance with fisheries rules in EU waters and by EU nationals also beyond these waters.
To close the EU market, the lynch pin of the system would be the application of port state control. In future, all fisheries products imported into the EU, whether fresh, frozen, or processed, would have to receive prior certification from the flag state (country where the vessel which caught them is registered) that the products are legal and that the vessel concerned holds the necessary licences or permits and quotas.
Access to EU port facilities for third country vessels will be limited to a list of designated ports drawn up by each Member State. In addition, transhipments between third-country vessels and EU vessels would be banned at sea, and could only be carried out in designated ports.
The validated catch certificates provided by the flag state would then have to accompany the fisheries products throughout the market chain. This will make it easy to verify that fish products have been caught legally, even if they pass through a number of territories before arriving in the EU market, including possible processing along the way.
To deter IUU operators and complaisant states from involvement with IUU fishing, a European black listing mechanism would be introduced. Fisheries relations, including trade fisheries products, between EU Member States and non-cooperating states would effectively be banned. In both cases, the listing procedures would include safeguards and appeal mechanisms to ensure that vessels and states listed receive a fair hearing.
Compliance with the rules is a duty for all. The proposed regulation therefore would strengthen the responsibility of Member States to impose sanctions on their nationals who engage in or support IUU fishing outside the EU. It would also lay down measures which would harmonise the maximum levels of sanctions to be applied by Member States in relation to serious infringements to the rules of the CFP.
Better cooperation for investigating IUU activities is crucial if they are to be eliminated. The Commission sees a pivotal role for the Community Fisheries Control Agency in this area. The Commission also proposes to strengthen EU efforts in the international arena to develop control tools, consolidate the capacity of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to fight IUU and to provide support to developing states to reinforce their fisheries management and control capacities.
Developing countries are one of the main victims of IUU fishing. Often, so are the crews employed on IUU vessels. The Commission therefore wants to promote rapid ratification of the international conventions on conditions on board and the safety of vessels.
The Commission and the Portuguese Presidency of the EU will be holding a Ministerial Conference on IUU fishing in Lisbon on 29 October.
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Issues/Port state issues