Written QeA to EU Commission – IUU Regulation (combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing)

Question for written answer to the Commission – Nicola Caputo (S&D) – 4th December 2014

During the confirmation hearings for the Juncker Commission, the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said that his priority will be to protect the natural capital on which sustainable growth depends and safeguard the health and well-being of citizens. He also said that he wanted to consult very soon with the European Parliament and the Council on updating the IUU Regulation.

Furthermore, it is a known fact that illegal fishing is a threat to the sustainable use of resources and compromises the common fisheries policy and international efforts to improve the management of ocean resources and seas.

In light of the above, can the Commission, as a whole and without prejudice to the competences of the Member States, explain how it proposes to:

1. more effectively combat this highly profitable practice, restricting access to the market to certified products only?
2. guarantee greater surveillance and more effective sanctions for violations?
3. increase awareness of the practice among consumers and users?

Answer given by Mr Vella on behalf of the Commission – 3rd February 2015

The EU has put in place a comprehensive system of rules dealing with the control of fishing activities, the combat of illegal fishing and the elimination of the access of IUU fish to the EU market as set out in the Control(1) and IUU Regulations(2).

With respect to the combat of the IUU activities the Commission is working on the following areas:

Establishing a global and integrated common approach to fisheries control ‘from the net to the plate’,
Enhancing mutual cooperation between all Member States, third countries, the Commission and the European Fishery Control Agency,
Developing a culture of compliance for all stakeholders and disseminating useful information to raise awareness,
Ensuring a level-playing field across the EU in terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the EU IUU rules,
Applying effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for serious infringements against these rules,
Guiding Member States on issues concerning the application of the EU catch certification system,
Promoting robust and targeted controls at EU ports through an active use of the mutual assistance system, exchange of information and best practices between the Commission and Member States,
Cooperating with third countries in addressing IUU problems and achieving structural changes in their fisheries management systems to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing.

The Commission intends to continue and reinforce its work in those areas in the coming years.

(1) Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 of 20.11.2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy, OJ L343/1, 22.12.2009.
(2) Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, OJ L 286/1, 29.10.2008.

(Source: European Parliament)

Fisheries: European Commission proposes full ban on driftnets

The European Commission wants to prohibit the use of any kind of driftnets for fishing in all EU waters as of 1 January 2015.

Although rules are already in place to forbid using driftnets to catch certain migratory fishes, the practice continues to be a cause of concern due to the incidental catching of marine mammals, sea turtles and sea birds which are mostly protected under EU legislation. To fight circumvention, the Commission proposal includes a full ban of driftnets fishing in the EU as well as the prohibition of keeping driftnets on board of fishing vessels. Furthermore, to avoid ambiguity, the proposal refines the current definition of a driftnet.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, said: “Fishing with driftnets destroys marine habitats, endangers marine wildlife and threatens sustainable fisheries. I am convinced that the only way to eradicate this once and for all is to have clear rules which leave no room for interpretation. We need to close any possible loopholes and simplify control and enforcement by national authorities. This will in the end also save the livelihood of those fishermen which have applied the rules over the past years. The ban sends out a clear message that we no longer tolerate any irresponsible practices.” 

Driftnets are fishing nets that can drift and operate close to or at the sea surface to target fish species that swim in the upper part of the water column. Since 2002 all driftnets, no matter their size, have been prohibited in EU waters when intended for the capture of highly migratory species such as tuna and swordfish.

However, the current EU legislative framework has shown weaknesses and loopholes. The small-scale nature of the fishing vessels involved and the fact that they do not operate together in the same areas has made it easier to escape monitoring, control and proper enforcement.

Illegal driftnet activities carried out by EU fishing vessels continue to be reported and have been cause of criticism regarding the Union compliance with applicable international obligations.

Banning driftnets responds to the new Common Fisheries Policy’s goal to minimise the impact of fishing activities on the marine ecosystems and to reduce unwanted catches as much as possible. Depending on Member States’ priorities, the European Maritime
Fisheries Fund (EMFF) could be used to support the transition towards a total ban provided that specific conditions are fulfilled.

Background

Following specific United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolutions, which called for a moratorium on the “large-scale pelagic driftnets” (i.e. longer than 2.5 km), the EU developed in the 1990s a series of provisions to implement such a ban for large-scale
driftnets.

The current EU legal framework on driftnets fishing entered fully into force on 1 January 2002. It bans the use of all driftnets, no matter their size, in EU waters when intended for the capture of highly migratory species such as tuna and swordfish.
In the Baltic Sea, the use of driftnets and the keeping on board of any kind of driftnets has been fully banned since 1 January 2008
Despite this entire regulatory framework in place, the rules have not been fully respected.

In April 2013, the Commission therefore published a Roadmap concerning a review of the EU regime on driftnet fisheries and launched two studies1, as well as a public consultation (closed in September 2013) on small-scale driftnet fisheries in order to get an overview of the sector, to assess the impact of driftnets on prohibited and protected species and to decide whether and how to review the implementation of EU rules on the small-scale driftnet fisheries.

Here is the link to the legislative proposal: COM 2014:265

Roadmap (April 2013)

(Source: DG Mare)