For EU fisheries regulations to be effective, they must be adhered to

Written by Brian Johnson on 22 October 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

To deliver a common fisheries policy that works, MEPs argue controls must be uniform across all member states.

Parliament’s rapporteur on the planned revision of community rules on technical measures, Spanish MEP Gabriel Mato, believes that the potential improvements, "should be an exercise in simplification and reformulation of the standards, many of which are now obsolete following the common fisheries policy (CFP) reforms". They should also serve "to improve understanding of the battery of complicated legislative texts in force, with the aim of simplifying compliance."

The planned revision of community rules on technical measures, which, among other things, says Mato "regulate the size of the fish that end up on our plates," may yet have major repercussions for the day-to-day operations of Europe’s fishing fleets.

"The modification of current regulations, through a number of legislative acts, is necessary to adapt them to the CFP reforms, such as prohibiting discards and regionalisation."


RELATED CONTENT


The EPP deputy adds that "the new regulations on technical measures must respond swiftly to changes in resources and ecosystems. They need to take into account the real time technical development of more selective fishing techniques." European regulations, he suggests, should support rather than act as a brake and be based on scientifically proven foundations.

"We EU policymakers must be capable of introducing mechanisms to promote greater dynamism in the management of resources. These should improve the participation of the fishing sector in decision-making, as well as promoting more rational fisheries management through regionalisation."

He also told the Parliament Magazine that when making decisions on technical measures that could have a considerable impact on the fishing sector, EU policymakers must balance scientific justification without losing sight of the principle of proportionality "to avoid insurmountable socioeconomic consequences."

Mato says he hopes his own initiative report will serve as a starting point for constructive discussions. "We ought to do everything possible to listen to the different fishing sectors affected and achieve harmony between their interests and the preservation of marine resources."

"Control is a complex and highly political act, referring to surveillance and punishment; and is driven by several cultural and ethical approaches. Fisheries control is no exception to this debate"

Achieving harmony is also central to French deputy Isabelle Thomas’ work on making fisheries control in Europe more uniform. "Control is a complex and highly political act, referring to surveillance and punishment; and is driven by several cultural and ethical approaches. Fisheries control is no exception to this debate", she says.

For more than 30 years explains Thomas, the EU has had a CFP supported by a strong regulatory competence. "Regulatory competence means control and control means convergence of means and practices in order to exert control. The requirement of convergence is legitimate because it responds to the need for of equity and equality of treatment stemming from a common rule."

Unfortunately during her many travels across Europe, she says would regularly hear fishermen saying that they believed EU rules were often applied less stringently in neighbouring countries. "This feeling of inequality is a recipe for disaster. We need fishermen to share our objectives and to recognise their validity in delivering an efficient CFP."

Thomas has therefore put forward a report on how to make fisheries controls in Europe more uniform. "This report is in its infancy. Its objective is to check how our rules are applied, like an investigative report." She also hopes to make proposals to improve the current situation. "At this stage, differences can already be observed between member states’ control systems and practices."

The scope of the European fisheries control agency’s competences will also come under Thomas’ quizzical eye. "Are they too restricted? Likewise, the opportunity to create a European coast-guard service needs to be addressed."

Furthermore, she suggests, the means attributed to control need to be examined. "The lack of interoperability between data collected nationally is a significant block to harmonisation. Fisheries control deserves to be modernised."

Thomas says her report should be ready early next year. "Until then, I intend to see the European fisheries control agency and to meet as many actors as possible."

"In response to this concern, the European Commission proposed a complete ban on fishing with drift nets. As you can imagine, drafting the report hasn’t been easy."

Meanwhile, Italian deputy Renata Briano reminds us that the fisheries committee has been working on a proposal to ban drift nets since May last year. As the rapporteur she says she has always been against any ban. "Fishing with drift nets is a traditional technique practiced in many countries and across European waters, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic".

Traditionally drift netting has been used to catch small to medium sized pelagic species. However the problem is that protected species such as turtles and sea birds can inadvertently be caught up in drift nets raising concerns about their environmental impact on marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

"In response to this concern, the European Commission proposed a complete ban on fishing with drift nets. As you can imagine, drafting the report hasn’t been easy."

Briano admits that regulatory action "that clearly establishes the illegality of non-selective bycatches, especially when improperly using fishing tools for unauthorised or protected species" is necessary.

She also argues that it isn’t right to ban a fishing method "when it is carried out in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner." The damage caused by a complete ban, she suggests, could lead to the disappearance of traditional fishing methods across many European fleets.

"I can say that absolute prohibition is not the solution to the problem of incidental catches and the illegal use of drift nets, as it would have no effect on those already committing illegal fishing offences. I believe that the most effective measure consists of strengthening law enforcement activities. National authorities should therefore provide the necessary measures and cooperate with each other and third-countries to identify their own nationals engaged in illegal unregulated and unreported fishing."

"Key stakeholders and drivers of innovation and should be involved in all stages of development of the blue economy."

Small-scale coastal fishing is considered a traditional form of fisheries; a daily way of life and an important source of existence for a large number of coastal areas, says Croation MEP Ruža Tomašić.

"This form of fishing, in most cases, in fragile coastal and insular community areas, is interrelated with local customs and skills that require special measures and support to enable their growth and development."

Depopulation is a real concern in many isolated coastal communities and Tomašić sees the promise of the so-called blue economy as an opportunity to, "foster the progress of coastal and insular areas" as "key stakeholders and drivers of innovation and should be involved in all stages of development of the blue economy."

As Parliament’s rapporteur on the report focussing on developing innovation and diversification in coastal fishing regions, Tomašić believes that, "in fisheries, more than in other sectors, the environment is simultaneously the economy".

She believes diversification is crucial; "the possibility of diversification of fisheries in the environmental policies and the green economy, the activities that are related to renewable energy, nature conservation, data collection and others, should be highlighted."

Tourism also has significant potential for the diversification of coastal communities especially if developed as a part of tradition that can capitalise on an area’s fishing heritage.

"Reading about the trafficked Cambodians, Vietnamese and Burmese farmers who are deceived and sold into the Thai fishing industry is a gruesome and horrifying story"

Moving further afield, and to a certain extent into new territory for Parliament’s fisheries committee MEPs, Linnéa Engström follows up on her recent article on the external dimension of the CFP (See issue 418, 7 September) by looking at why Thailand is facing an EU red card over illegal fishing and allegations of people trafficking and slavery in the country’s fisheries sector.

"Reading about the trafficked Cambodians, Vietnamese and Burmese farmers who are deceived and sold into the Thai fishing industry is a gruesome and horrifying story", says the vice chair of the fisheries committee.

She added "although the EU regulation against illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries (IUUF) doesn’t cover human rights violations, its demand for transparency and proper monitoring of fisheries will increase the possibility to expose other illegal behaviour such as trafficking."

Engström believes that the EU’s IUUF regulation, although only in force for five years, "has had a truly remarkable effect globally. Despite the extensive investigations and verifications that the European Commission conducts before pre-identifying a country, a total of 18 countries have been given a so-called yellow card."

So why is it then so hard to curb the illegal fishing trade?

Unfortunately, fish caught illegally are often economically more attractive." One of the main obstacles in the fight against illegal fishing is the economic drive for cheap sea-food in both the EU and the US. "

It is crucial says Engström that the EU stays firm in the war against illegal fishing and pursues sanctions for non-cooperative countries.

So what about Thailand?

It’s now up to Thailand to keep its own promises she says. "The Thai country report also clearly stated the need to tackle corruption among high-level bureaucrats and police officers and to work together with neighbouring countries to better protect their own citizens.

She adds, "It seems very challenging to say the least, to enact and implement such major structural change during such a short period of time."

Thailand needs to offer decent working conditions and real labour opportunities to its people. In addition, she argues, it should "consider a more ecosystem-based approach to its fishing. Overfishing in Thailand’s waters forces vessels to fish ever further from the coast, and this contributes to the well-known, rampant human rights abuses.

About the author

Brian Johnson is the managing editor of the Parliament Magazine

Interested in this content?

Sign up to our free daily email bulletins.

 

Share this page

Tags

Categories

Related Partner Content

The GMO blockade: Goodbye to science and technology
20 September 2016

Ignoring scientific consensus and expelling an entire technology is a high price to pay for political convenience, argues Beat Späth.

Bioplastics: Helping the EU ‘close the loop’
23 October 2017

Bioplastics are a key element in Europe’s transition to a low-carbon, circular economy, writes Hasso von Pogrell

EU must future-proof legislation for animal health
29 January 2018

Animal Health Europe’s Roxane Feller provides a recap on the veterinary medicines and medicated feed review ahead of trilogue talks kicking-off this week on 31 January