EU to usher in penalties for overfishing


Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
October 21, 2009

At a meeting in Luxembourg this week, European Union fisheries ministers ushered in sanctions and the framework to withdraw funding should member states fail to comply with fisheries rules.

Largely welcomed by conservationists, the political agreement the EU signed off on this week is intended to crack down on the thorny issues of overfishing and illegal fishing in European waters.

“The new control system will provide Europe with the level playing field required to usher in a much-needed culture of compliance in the fisheries sector,” said EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg.
Sweden’s Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson, who chaired the meeting, added: “Consumers must know that the fish for sale in the shops has been caught legally.”

Described by the European Commission as a “root-and-branch reform” of the Common Fisheries Policy control framework, the new regulation is set to take effect 1 January next year. Inked into the rules is a “degree of harmonization” of sanctions, a new penalty points system, a payback system for overfished quotas and provisions that allow for the suspension of funds from the EU coffers should a member state fail to comply with the control provisions.

In short, the new rules tighten the control and monitoring for the entire supply chain for seafood products and include processing and distribution. Penalties, under a new points system, include fishing boats being banned for several months after four offenses.

Stakeholders and pressure groups are hopeful that the tougher rules on compliance will tackle both illegal and over fishing in Europe.

“The ministers reached the overdue agreement that subsidies should be withheld from member states if they fail to apply control measures effectively. Taxpayers want to know their money is encouraging sustainable fishing rather than rewarding IUU (illegal, unregulated and unreported) fishing,” said Uta Bellion, director of the EU marine program at the Pew Environment Group.
World Wildlife Fund also welcomed the control and enforcement rules this week. “Existing rules have been applied poorly or not at all, disadvantaging fishermen and governments who played by the rules. Illegal fishing continues to be a huge threat to healthy fish stocks and profitable fisheries,” said Aaron Mc Loughlin, head of the European marine program at WWF’s European policy office.
Prior to the fisheries meeting, Saskia Richartz, EU oceans policy adviser for Greenpeace, told SeafoodSource that the control regulation would be a step forward, cautioning that “the devil is in the detail.”

Speaking from Luxembourg after attending the October Fisheries Council, Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said the original control regulation, in place since 1983, was “in desperate need of renewal in light.”

“For the first time it will place all the various control provisions of the CFP together in one regulation,” he said. “This will deliver measures that I believe are proportionate, effective and transparent, but most importantly, applied equally throughout the fishing fleets of Europe.”

Also agreed on at the meeting this week were new fishing quotas in the Baltic Sea for 2010. Cod quotas were increased 15 percent in the eastern Baltic and 8.6 percent in the western Baltic. “Cod stocks have shown a welcome improvement. It was possible to allow a slight increase in the cod quotas for the coming year in line with scientific advice,” said the Swedish EU Presidency in a statement following the meeting.

Meanwhile, herring quotas were reduced by 16.5 percent in the western Baltic and by 12 percent in the central Baltic, but raised by 25 percent in the Sea of Bothnia and the Bay of Bothnia. The sprat and salmon quotas were reduced 15 percent throughout the Baltic Sea, apart from in the Gulf of Finland.

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