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Brussels, 19 January 2006

Fisheries scoreboard: Member States must do more to prevent overfishing

The European Commission, today, published the third edition of the Common Fisheries Policy Scoreboard which includes, for the first time, data from the new Member States. Like the previous one, it shows that more progress has to be made in the collation and timely transmission of data to the Commission. While there has been some improvement notably where fleet management and implementation of the fisheries fund programmes are concerned, timely reporting in several areas, such as quota uptake, crucial to effective fisheries management remains largely unsatisfactory. Not surprisingly, more than two-thirds of the infringement procedures currently pending against Member States relate to cases of overfishing. Indeed, the Court of Justice has recently ruled against Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Finland and Sweden for overshooting their quotas. Moreover, on 12 July 2005, in a landmark case involving France, it also imposed a penalty of €20 million as well as an additional € 57 million for each period of 6 months of non-compliance with a court ruling dating back to 1991.

“Failure to enforce fisheries measures works against the interests of fishermen as it leads to overfishing, depleted fish stocks, smaller catches and shrinking incomes. Member States must urgently work with stakeholders, the Commission and the European fisheries control agency, which will be soon up and running, to improve overall compliance”, commented Fisheries Commissioner, Joe Borg.

Preventing overfishing

Every December, the Fisheries Council set fishing possibilities for the following year. These are allocated to the Member States which must monitor their uptake by their respective fleets and inform the Commission at set intervals. The Scoreboard shows that there was no substantial improvement in this area, though three Member States, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom, fully met their obligations in this area.

The number of quotas overshot declined slightly from 2% in 2003 to 1.8% in 2004 (down from 3% in 2002). Again, the extent of overfishing varied substantially from case to case, from less than 1% to as much as 68%, as did the quantities of fish concerned. The Member States with the worst records on overfishing in 2004 were Ireland and, for the second year running, Spain.

The proper management of fishing effort (fishing days) is also crucial to preventing overfishing. Regrettably, reporting in this area continues to deteriorate. Only two countries - Belgium and Sweden - met their obligations, compared with three in 2003. France, Ireland and Portugal failed, for the third year running, to transmit any data about their fleets’ fishing effort.

Monitoring and control

A list of serious breaches to the CFP rules, which must be reported to the Commission along with the action taken following detection, was set up in 1999. Having fallen to 6,756 cases in 2002, the number of serious infringements rose again in 2003 to 9,502 – well above the level of 2001. The most common infringement remains unauthorised fishing. Clearly, detection rates and the level of fines applied in such cases are failing to deter wrongdoers.

Management of the fleet

Compliance with reporting obligations to the Community Fleet Register has improved while new Member States have fully complied with these obligations. However, Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal again failed to submit the full information required.

There has also been progress in the required re-measuring of fishing vessels. Those which have yet to complete this process include Spain, France, Italy, Poland and, to a lesser extent, the UK.

With regard to the management regime which monitors the entry and exit ceilings of fishing vessels into the fleets, the Scoreboard shows that most Member States have complied except for Belgium and Italy.

Infringement procedures

These failures by Member States to ensure that the necessary measures are taken to prevent overfishing and the depletion of fish stocks explain why over 70% (49 out of 69) of the infringement procedures now pending against Member States continue to relate to cases of overfishing. There are also eight currently engaged against Member States for their failure to forward to the Commission information regarding catch and fishing effort.

Since last year’s Scoreboard was published, the Court of Justice of the European Community has handed down a number of judgements in infringement cases launched by the Commission since 2003, including a landmark decision against France for failing to implement technical measures. This judgement against France was for its failure to enforce a 1991 Court ruling itself related to failing to implement a number of technical measures to prevent catches of young hake. This ruling should prove a strong incentive to Member States to comply with their obligations under the CFP. The Commission will decide shortly on whether France has met its obligations in this domain after the ending of the 6-month period on 12 January.

For more details see MEMO/06/13.

The scoreboard is available on the internet at the following address:

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