Aquaculture for all

EU Fisheries Report: Infringements Beckon Reform

EU - The European Commission has published its seventh annual report on serious infringements to the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The number of infringements detected that year was 10,362, while the average fine imposed by Member States was 1,548.

The most common types of infringements were those concerning storing, processing, placing for sale and transporting of fishery products not meeting the marketing standards in force, and unauthorised fishing. The Commission remains concerned both at the detection rate and the level of sanctions applied by the Member States.

"Without effective control, we will never be able to reverse the current downward spiral of European fisheries"
Without effective control, we will never be able to reverse the current downward spiral of European fisheries

In addition, the information provided by the Member States is once again insufficient to allow the Commission to draw useful conclusions as to how well the CFP is actually enforced. The Commission is currently preparing a complete overhaul of the existing CFP control regulation, and is in particular going to propose the introduction of harmonised administrative sanctions, which would help correct the arbitrary nature of the present system.

"Once again, our annual report on serious infringements confirms the need to overhaul the Common Fisheries Policy control system, both in what it reveals, and in what it leaves unsaid. Without effective control, we will never be able to reverse the current downward spiral of European fisheries. Better, fairer, and more deterrent enforcement of the rules is a vital step towards the next Reform of the CFP on which we have now begun to work", commented Joe Borg, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The number of infringements detected in 2006 is slightly lower than in 2005 (- 1%), but this has to be seen in conjunction with the decrease in the overall number of active EU vessels by 10 % in the same period. Therefore there is no real improvement in level of compliance with CFP rules.

As in previous years, there are wide differences between Member States in the financial penalties imposed for the same type of infringement. The average fine of €1,548 was, curiously, exactly the same as in 2005, and less than half the average fine imposed in 2003 (€ 4,664). The average fine once again varied widely from one Member State to another, varying from €170 in some to €6070 in other member states. The number of fishing licences withdrawn was 1082, or only 10 % of the cases, though again this varied widely: in some Member States, licences were withdrawn in over 70% of cases, in others in less than 2%.

Reform of control system needed

It is clear from this and previous years' reports, that CFP enforcement lacks deterrent effect, and that there is no real level playing field among the EU Member States. The Commission therefore intends to launch an ambitious reform of the EU policy for fisheries control. The reform will aim at guaranteeing equality and fair competition, thus avoiding the migration of offenders to Member States where infringements are punished less severely, as well as at establishing a culture of compliance among operators.

Furthermore it will develop a new harmonized approach to inspections and control, strengthen the effectiveness of cross checking systems of data, enhance the capacity of the Commission to ensure compliance with EC rules of CFP, encourage the use of modern technologies and finally foster a culture of compliance.

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