Redouble the efforts against illegal fishing, says European Parliament

Pressmeddelande   •   Feb 15, 2007 15:17 CET

MEPs adopted an own-initiative report on the implementation of the EU action plan against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The report points out that the Green Paper on a new maritime policy could serve as a framework for cooperation on the basis of which the fight against illegal fishing might be more effective. The House also asks the Commission to publish blacklists of fishing vessels and to consider the idea of establishing an EU coastguard.

In its work programme for 2007, the Commission announced that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) will become a priority and it will produce a communication on IUU fishing and a proposal for a regulation defining a new strategy to combat IUU fishing. The report by Marie-Hélène AUBERT (Greens/EFA, FR) aims to provide the Commission with concrete ideas and suggestions for action to be taken.

According to MEPs, the Commission should create a Community register of vessels engaging in IUU fishing, which would include vessels on regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) blacklists. Such a register would facilitate the swift exchange of information among the Member States and make it possible to monitor vessels taking account of possible re-flagging. Member States should apply common minimum penalties for serious infringements (§ 18) and these penalties must be sufficiently dissuasive.

The European Parliament asks that all blacklists of fishing vessels and fish transport vessels, including their owners or operators, adopted by RFMOs are published and incorporated directly into Community law. Non-EU vessels on those lists must be prohibited from entry into EU ports for any purpose, except in cases of 'force majeure' or for humanitarian reasons. All EU-flagged vessels must be prohibited from providing support (fuel, supplies, transhipment, etc.) to those vessels while at sea.

The legal origin of fish must be demonstrated before it is allowed to be offloaded in EU ports or imported into the EU. The report points out that fish should be fully traceable from the time it is brought aboard a fishing vessel until it reaches its final customer.

MEPs urge the Commission to ensure that any person guilty of IUU fishing do not receive any type of aid or subsidy from Community funds for any branch of their activities, and to ask the Member States to take similar action with regard to their respective national aid.

Helping developing countries in the prevention of illegal fishing

The importance of the EU in the world, as a major fishing power and as the world's largest market for fish, obliges it to be at the forefront of the fight against IUU fishing. MEPs consider that the EU can only act credibly on the world scene if it has already taken effective action to halt its own involvement in IUU fishing, both in EU waters and by EU vessels or interests outside the EU.

According to estimates by the Marine Resources Assessment Group, mentioned in the report, such fishing around the world is worth at least $2.4 billion. Much of this comes from the waters of developing countries, which are too poor to be able to effectively monitor fishing activities in their waters and prevent illegal fishing, resulting in loss and hardship for their coastal populations, who depend on fish for their livelihoods and food security.

The report urges the Commission to help developing countries, especially those with which it has fishing agreements, to comply fully with the commitments of the international plan of action designed to prevent illegal fishing, helping to strengthen the scant means available to them by including specific actions in the new partnership agreements.

Traceability of fish from the net to the plate

MEPs call on the Commission to present its proposal on eco-labelling by June 2007, reiterating its belief that the improvements in the traceability of fish, from the net to the plate, that would be required by eco-labelling schemes would be of considerable help in identifying IUU fish and keeping it off the EU market.

The House also asks the Commission and the Member States to expand the Community information campaign so as to improve public awareness of the extent and serious nature of IUU fishing.

An EU coastguard

Parliament welcomes the establishment of the new Community Fisheries Control Agency, in Vigo (Spain), and is confident that the agency will play an important role in the fight against IUU fishing. MEPs call on the Commission to consider the idea of the establishment of an EU coastguard.

Finally, MEPs ask the Commission to carry out and submit a study on compliance with Community labour, health and safety legislation and on respect for the social rights of workers on vessels and on their living and working conditions on board.

Ref.: 20070209IPR02931
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