Is the EU serious about regulating its long-distance fishing fleet?

Based on an Oceana news release, 10th December, Marinet reports: The EU is the largest seafood market in the world, importing more than 60% of the seafood it consumes.

Over 15,000 vessels operate under the EU’s Fishing Authorisation Regulation, or FAR, to fish in non-EU waters, through various agreements such as access agreements between the EU and third countries and private and charter agreements made directly between private EU companies or citizens and authorities or companies in coastal countries.

The total number of vessels fishing under the FAR, their names, and the timing and location of their operations had not been disclosed publicly until recently, when EJF, Oceana and WWF launched

WhoFishesFAR discloses this information for the first time ever, making it available to the general public.

From 2010 to 2014 at least 15,264 fishing vessels operated under EU flags in external waters using a FAR authorization and are included in this database. The data has been provided by the European Commission and also includes additional information from 2006 to 2020, amounting to 16,336 unique vessels — including 978 licences that were given to third (or non-EU) countries to operate in EU waters.

A proposal has now been published by the European Commission that would close loopholes in the regulation governing the European Unions (EU)’s long-distance fishing fleet. The European Commission’s proposal is a renewed and updated version of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1006/2008 of 29th September 2008.

One problem addressed in the proposal is ‘reflagging’. There are known instances of EU operators repeatedly and rapidly switching their vessel’s flag to those of non-EU states, some of which were not fighting illegal fishing. These operators were then free to reflag in the EU again and benefit from EU access agreements and subsidies.

The European Commission is seeking to stop vessels from engaging in these activities, and to make International Maritime Organization (IMO) numbers mandatory when operating outside EU waters.

Abusive or repetitive reflagging happens when EU vessels that have exited the EU fishing fleet reflag to a third country so they can continue operating. They then reflag to the EU fleet again, enabling them to access EU benefits and subsidies even if they may have been involved in illegal fishing activity while under a non-EU flag.

All EU fishing vessels operating in third-country waters or on the high seas need an authorization under the EU’s Fishing Authorisation Regulation (FAR).

However until now it was unknown how many boats operated in these waters, their names, and where and when they were authorised to fish.

Source: Oceana press release, 10th December 2015. For the full details, see


Marinet observes: It appears that the EU has been feeding its citizens — of all fish consumed in the EU 60% is imported — by, in part, tolerating for a long period of time some unsavoury practices by EU vessels in non-EU seas. Now, the EU “proposes” to do something about this. One has to ask, why has the EU allowed this for so long; and when this “proposal” comes into force, who will regulate and enforce it?

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