"A lot of energy has been devoted to combat overfishing in the context of the CFP reform in the last years, and rightly so. In fact, sustainability is the red line connecting CFP reform with this file. So, the Commission has continued vigorously enforcing the existing rules in EU waters. For instance, in March of this year, we reduced the Spanish quota for mackerel by 65.000 tonnes because of overfishing. In recent years, deficiencies in the control systems have also led to administrative enquiries and agreed action plans with Malta (2011), Spain (2012) and Latvia (May 2013)," said Ms Damanaki.
"But ladies and gentlemen, whilst we are getting our own house in order, we still import 65 per cent of the fish we eat. It is therefore essential to ensure that international conservation rules get applied not only in EU waters, but also for the wild fish we import.
"My main priority here is to work at the level of countries. Over the past three years, the Commission has undertaken a process of identification of non-cooperating third countries. This resulted in eight countries being given a "yellow card" in November 2012. The objective of this exercise is to bring about fundamental reform of the fisheries control systems: satellite control [VMS], inspections, laws allowing effective sanctions.
"During these last months, we were able to convince some countries of moving to an effective fisheries control system. In particular, Fiji, Togo, Sri Lanka and Panama have made credible progress. These countries will receive additional time to implement the necessary reforms and adapt their fleets.
For the rest of the countries, a mission is on-going in one country, Vanuatu, as we speak. The others have not been that cooperative until now. Their current attitude leaves me no choice but to start preparations for the next steps. These next steps could entail trade measures to be adopted by the Council on proposal of the Commission.
"Simultaneously, we have investigations and cooperation missions on-going as regards further countries. If no concrete progress is achieved with those, I intend to hand out, before the end of the year, a few more yellow cards."
Ms Damanaki concluded by thanking Mr Romeva and the Members of the Parliament for their support in the fight against IUU fishing.