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Strategy against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
The Commission presents a comprehensive strategy to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) which endangers the economy of the fisheries sector, fish stocks and the marine environment. The measures proposed would restrict access to the European Union (EU) market to those fishery products certified compliant with regulations by the flag State or by the export State in question. It also provides for surveillance of activities at sea, identification of IUU operators, improved implementation of legislation in the fisheries field and better application of sanctions in the event of infringements being committed.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 17 October 2007 on a new strategy for the Community to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing [COM(2007) 601 final - not published in the Official Journal].
The European Union (EU) is proposing a comprehensive strategy to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Community and international waters. Such fishing practices threaten the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and damage the sustainability of fish stocks, marine biodiversity, fragile ecosystems, law-abiding fishermen and the coastal populations affected. This international scourge has environmental, economic and social consequences.
The EU plays a crucial role, as it is one of the key players on the fisheries market in terms of both production and consumption. The quantity of illegal products imported into the EU each year is estimated at 500 000 tonnes worth 1.1 billion.
The scope of the combat against IUU fishing covers:
- infringements to rules on management and conservation of fisheries resources in national and international waters;
- fishing activities in high-seas areas covered by a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) carried out by vessels which contravene the rules of the organisation. These are vessels without nationality or registered in a country not party to the RFMO;
- fishing activities carried out in high-seas areas not covered by an RFMO in a manner inconsistent with state responsibilities for the conservation of resources under international law.
The EU must fight against certain factors supporting the perpetuation of IUU fishing, namely:
- profitability. Due to low operating costs and the substantial resultant profits. It is also explained by the overcapacity of certain fishing fleets compared to the fishing possibilities available;
- national and international loopholes of which illegal operators can take advantage. These loopholes involve flag registration, cooperation between States and international bodies, and monitoring, control and surveillance systems.
Although some progress has been made under the 2002 action plan, IUU fishing is far from eradicated. Through this strategy, the Commission is supporting the preparation of international rules and setting up of RFMOs responsible for implementing them. It intends to continue the monitoring, control and surveillance of activities at sea as well as identification of IUU operators. Better application of these rules and of deterrent sanctions for infringements is also required.
This comprehensive strategy encompasses all fishing and related activities linked to IUU practices (harvesting, transshipment, processing, landing, trade, etc.). It targets the whole supply chain and provides an answer to the problems caused by these activities at Community level as well as regionally and internationally.
Action against IUU fishing must fully integrate the trade dimension. In this respect, the Commission anticipates closing the doors of Europe to illegal products through the launch of a regime of control by the port State, under which fish or fisheries products must be certified by the flag State before landing or import into the EU.
To address the issue of "flags of non-compliance", the EU could act unilaterally to offset the inadequacy of multilateral action. A Community list of vessels responsible for IUU fishing and the Member States hosting them could be drawn up.
The Commission intends to improve compliance with international and Community laws by EU vessels and operators. It is planning to encourage Member States and EU nationals to ensure proper implementation of the CFP and to improve control and enforcement measures. Deterrent sanctions for IUU activities in Community waters and for EU operators responsible for this type of fishing anywhere in the world are necessary.
Better cooperation will enable investigation of IUU activities. A high degree of coordination and regular exchange of information should be guaranteed with the support of the Community Fisheries Control Agency. At international level, the EU must contribute to the efforts, in particular of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), to set up a global register of fishing vessels and an international network dedicated to monitoring, control and surveillance. At Community level, the EU must improve coordination between Member States' control authorities.
The EU must intensify the fight against fishing in the high seas within the framework of regional, bilateral and multilateral relations. The EU strategy to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing depends on various parties:
- the RFMOs. The measures adopted by the RFMOs must be reinforced along with coordination between these organisations;
- coastal developing countries. To improve the management and monitoring of fishing activities, Community financial support to these countries must be intensified. The impact of the IUU regulation on developing countries and accompanying measures must be assessed;
- the International Labour Organisation (ILO). International conventions relating to work in the fisheries sector or the safety of fishing vessels must be signed by more States. It would also be appropriate to study the possibility of transposing this legislation into Community law.
This Communication is part of a broad international consensus expressed in the decisions of the FAO, the United Nations General Assembly and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the need to adopt a global approach to eradicate IUU fishing. It follows on from the 2002 Commission action plan and the Resolution of the European Parliament of 15 February 2007. It is, along with the proposal for a Regulation which should be adopted during 2008, one of the first steps towards an integrated maritime policy for the EU for sustainable use of the seas.