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Closing The Door To Illegal Fishing

EU - At an ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) seminar yesterday, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said that the Commission is deeply involved in the fight against IUU fishing, because illegal fishing is a crime a crime which, by undermining the sustainability of fish stocks and marine ecosystems, causes general disruption to marine life.

Ms Damanaki said that IUU fishing is one of the major threats to fish stocks, and undermines the very foundation of any fisheries policy.

Calculating the economic impact of illegal fishing is difficult. Research done prior to 2010 suggests that IUU fishing was the second largest producer of fishery products in the world, worth approximately 10 billion Euros. This is an absolutely astonishing figure, making up almost 19 per cent of worldwide catches, she said.

"Sadly, we have ourselves supported illegal fishing in the past: it has been estimated that 16 per cent of EU imports – over one billion euro - came from illegal fisheries every year.

"As a key player in world fisheries, the EU has now taken an active role against IUU fishing: at international level, by actively proposing and supporting measures to improve controls and identify offenders; and within the EU, by adopting the so-called IUU Regulation.

"This regulation marks our commitment to fight illegal fishing and we take its proper implementation and functioning very seriously."

The Commissioner went on to say that she will ensure that no EU subsidies go to EU operators who fish against the rules.

"The EU legislation adopted over the last few years already provides for clear responsibilities and obligations in this respect. Under the European Fisheries Fund rules, Member States are responsible for selecting projects and beneficiaries and for performing checks and audits on the projects themselves or on their financials. With that information, it is up to Member States to make sure that no aid is granted to unlawful operators.

"On top of that, the IUU Regulation now forbids Member States to grant any public money, whether from national or EU sources, to operators whose vessels are listed on our "black list". The EU "black list" currently contains vessels listed as IUU by regional fisheries management organisations; but it can - and will - also include other vessels, flagged both EU and non-EU countries; and I promise you that EU vessels will not receive any favourable treatment.

"good example is this recent case: the French authorities have denied aid to a French owner to scrap a purse seiner. Why? Because the seiner's owner also owned another vessel - this one appearing on the black list of the ICCAT organisation!"

Concluding Ms Damanaki said that a much clearer message had to be sent to EU fisheries: that only those fishermen who fully comply with the rules can receive financial assistance from the EU.

She said that the reform of the CFP was the perfect opportunity do this: no EU funding should help or contribute to, directly or indirectly, IUU fishing. EU assistance should be governed by a single financial instrument and should be subject to a strong conditionality clause.

the Fish Site Editor

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