Damanaki: ‘Time for responsible fishing is now’

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
April 11, 2011

The European Union’s fish chief on Tuesday warned seafood stakeholders that wrongdoings can now be traced back to any stage of the seafood supply chain. Commissioner Maria Damanaki’s comments come as new rules entered into force on Friday, completing reform of the EU’s fisheries control policy, which kicked off in 2008.

Adoption of the rules has cleared the way in the EU for two new instruments: one for EU waters and one for the IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing regulation of international waters.

Referring to the new control and enforcement framework, Damanaki asserted: “This is hard in the middle of the crisis, but we have to give the signal that the time for responsible fishing has begun.”

Further, on the eve of proposals — expected this July — for a reformed Common Fsheries Policy (CFP), Damanaki underlined at a press conference in Brussels on Tuesday that “without an effective control system, the CFP is ultimately toothless.”

Fisheries rules and control systems are agreed on at the EU level but implemented and carried out by EU member states’ authorities and inspectors. All control rules are “now contained in one single text, thus making life easier for both fishermen and control authorities,” said the EC, adding that the new control system covers the whole production and supply chain, from net to plate, ensuring the fish are “entirely” traceable.

According to the EC, Tuesday’s system rests on three pillars: a regulation against illegal fishing; rules on fishing authorizations; and the core control regulation itself, which creates an entirely new legal framework for the control and enforcement of the CFP.

The new framework, suggested the authorities, puts fishermen, other operators and member states on an equal footing. Members have harmonized methods for inspection plus a set of sanctions that apply equally to all.

“And if they are repeatedly caught fishing illegally, thanks to a new point system they will end up losing their license. We also give incentives to improve their point system position by responsible fishing,” said Damanaki.

The EC also has increased powers of verification, meaning the executive can carry out independent inspections and audits in member states. If a shortcoming is detected, the EC can launch an enquiry, suspend or withdraw funds and reduce the member state’s fishing quotas.

“Control is not an issue for the EU alone. We now are implementing the regulation for illegal fisheries at the global level,” clarified Damanaki.Getting away with fishing illegally is about to become much more difficult as the European Union’s new fisheries control system is now fully operational, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said on Tuesday.

The new rules detail on how to carry out controls throughout the supply chain, ensuring traceability and allowing member states’ authorities to spot wrongdoings at any point and trace them back to the culprit.

Inspections will be done the same way across Europe. Data are collected and cross-checked electronically. Once the product reaches stores, the consumer will know it has been fished legally. If someone breaks the law, they will face equally severe sanctions. If they are repeatedly caught fishing illegally, thanks to a new point system they will end up losing their license.

The regulations also detail the mechanisms that may be used by the European Commission to ensure compliance by member states: increased powers for verification, independent inspections and audit, administrative inquiries, suspension or withdrawal of EU funds and reduction of quotas and fishing effort, whenever the control system of a member state appears ineffective.

To ease implementation of the new rules, the EC will grant financial assistance to member states by co-financing certain types of projects, especially the ones focusing on new technologies.

“If we can’t enforce our own rules, this undermines the credibility of the whole common fisheries policy, no matter how sound it may be. We now have a comprehensive system of control and enforcement and I expect compliance with EU fishing rules to improve from now on,” said Damanaki. “We can no longer allow even a small minority of fishermen to ignore the rules and get away with it. Apart from being unfair this also undermines conservation efforts, it disrupts markets with unfair competition, it penalizes law-abiding fishermen and chokes the circle of compliance. And, most importantly, it destroys fish stocks.”

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