EU to regulate EU fishing operations outside of EU waters

Oceana reports, 2nd February 2017: The EU has one of the largest fishing fleets operating around the world, and its activities represent 28% of total EU catches.

The European Parliament has voted on the European Commission’s proposal to sustainably manage the activities of the EU’s fishing fleet operating outside European Union waters.

EU fishing vessels operate in the waters of developing coastal states of the Indian and Pacific Oceans and off the coast of Central Africa under various types of agreements, including official EU-financed agreements for which the EU pays 145 million euros annually.

The European Parliament has supported the need for robust measures for transparency, sustainability and accountability in fisheries outside EU waters.

Oceana congratulates the European Parliament on a firm decision that represents an opportunity to make fisheries a leading example of transparency in beneficial ownership:

“This decision sends a clear message to other nations with long distance fleets that the EU fleet is abiding by the highest standards and that we expect other fishing nations to follow suit,” said María José Cornax, policy and advocacy director at Oceana in Europe.

The plenary vote supports the proposal of the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament on 5th December to create the first public register of fleet activities including the information on final financial beneficiaries (also called beneficial ownership).

Disclosing this information reduces the potential opportunity for money laundering and tax evasion thus contributing to the fight against illegal fishing.

In addition, the European Parliament has also restricted fishing authorisations to vessels with a clean compliance record, i.e. which have not committed a serious infringement in the 12 months preceding their application.

This inclusion will ensure that activities of the EU vessels fishing outside EU waters are in line with the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy as well as EU’s global policies to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The proposal will soon be negotiated further among the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.


Source: Oceana News release, 2nd February 2017. For further details, see


Marinet observes: Marinet reported on ClientEarth’s statement, 9th December 2016, that EU fisheries law is not being properly enforced and fines for illegal fishing are rare. When fines are given, they are very low — in some regions, the average is as little as €288. This is undermining efforts to end over-fishing.

ClientEarth’s new report, which focuses on England, the Republic of Ireland, France and Poland, shows that the legislation underpinning the Common Fisheries Policy has been implemented very late, badly, or in some cases not at all.

ClientEarth lawyer Elisabeth Druel said: “The Council of Ministers is negotiating 2017 fishing quotas right now. But these quotas mean little if there is no penalty for flouting them. Some boats continue to fish above their quota, in the wrong place or at the wrong time, yet the authorities do little or nothing about it. This seriously undermines EU fisheries law, creates unfairness for boats from different countries and those operating legally, and threatens our oceans.”

The number of infringements reported by different Member States varies massively. In England and France, almost 20% of boats inspected at sea were breaching the law, while the number in Ireland and Poland was 3.2% and 2.6% respectively. Prosecutions are rare and fines are low.

So far this year [2016], states ClientEarth, the English Marine Management Organisation has brought two successful prosecutions in front of the courts, resulting in fines of £500 each.

In France, data on fines or other penalties (like suspension or withdrawal of fishing licences) is not transparent and almost 90% of criminal prosecutions are settled out of court. In Ireland, the average fine is €1,450 (£1,242) and in parts of Poland it is as low as €288 (£258), even for “serious” infringements.

As a result, Marinet observes, the EU appears to be making what amounts to pious declarations about how it will control its activities overseas. If it can neither regulate nor prosecute illegal behaviour effectively within EU waters, how is it going to do so outside EU waters ? Also, if it fails to prosecute EU vessels within EU waters for illegal activities, how does the declaration that “fishing authorizations for overseas will be restricted to EU vessels with a clean compliance record, i.e. which have not committed a serious infringement in the 12 months preceding their application” have any serious meaning?

Marinet observes too that WWF Scotland has reported, January 2017, that the ban on discards in the Scottish fishing industry is being undermined because it is not being effectively policed. The number of Scottish boats carrying cameras — which monitor the fish being caught — has halved since the scheme was introduced. Figures from the Scottish government show there are now just 15 boats carrying cameras. When the scheme was first introduced in 2014, there were 32.

Does this give one confidence, Marinet asks, that EU Members States are actually capable of delivering not just the CFP regulations but also regulations governing vessels which are a great many miles away from home? As the catch-phrase asserts, the answer seems a “no brainer”.


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