Brussels, 27 October 2009
Fisheries: EU is ready to combat illegal fishing
On 22 October 2009, following the favourable opinion expressed in September by the Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Commission adopted a Regulation establishing the implementing rules for the 2008 Regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. As one of the central pillars of the Community's fisheries control policy, the IUU Regulation will control all landings and transhipments of third-country fishing vessels in Community ports and all trade of marine fishery products to and from the Union.
"Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is currently one of the most serious threats to the sustainable exploitation of marine resources. It jeopardises the marine environment, the sustainability of fish stocks and marine biodiversity. I am glad to see these implementing rules come into effect. Illegal fishing practices are simply intolerable, and we need to eradicate them inside and outside the EU market. As from 2010, the new controls will help those fishermen that play by the rules and will ensure a better control and enforcement of management and conservation rules", said Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg.
It is estimated that IUU fishing accounts for almost 20% of all marine catches in the world, with a value of approximately 10 billion Euros every year. This makes IUU fishing the second largest producer of fishery products in the world.
Despite having one of the largest fishing fleet in the world, the Union is also the single largest importer of fishery products. It is estimated that we import approximately 500,000 tonnes of fisheries products every year, worth 14 billion Euros. 45,000 tonnes of those products (9%) or 1.1 billion Euros (10% of the value) could originate from illegal fishing. In other words, the EU market provides a trade outlet for roughly 10% of the fish caught in violation of conservation and management measures.
The IUU Regulation and its implementing rules have the ambitious goal to combat illegal fishing by making sure that none of its products end up on the Community market. To do so, the Regulation sets up a catch certification scheme ensuring the full traceability of all marine fishery products traded from and into the Community. An essential element of the IUU Regulation, the certification scheme will help countries comply with their own conservation and management rules and will also make co-operation among countries easier for control and enforcement purposes. The Regulation also seeks to ensure that no European Union citizens are engaged in IUU activities, no matter where they take place.
In addition to the certification scheme, the Regulation also addresses the issues of port state control and of mutual assistance. Moreover it introduces a Community alert system to detect the most suspect cases of illegal practices, the vessels involved and any non-cooperating third countries. Proper enforcement will be ensured thanks to a harmonised system of proportionate and deterring sanctions for serious infringements.
The new implementing rules provide the legal and technical framework for the implementation of the IUU Regulation. They cover the access to designated Community ports by third-country fishing vessels and inspection. They also address catches by small fishing vessels and deal with the recognition of some catch documentation schemes adopted by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. Imports of marine fishery products arriving to the Community by plane, rail or road and approved economic operators are dealt with, as are verifications of catch certificates, cooperation with third countries, sightings, mutual assistance and amendments to Annex I of the IUU Regulation.
The Commission is aware of the constraints that some third countries, particularly developing countries, may encounter in complying with the new requirements. This is why we are firmly committed to assisting them in the implementation of the IUU Regulation, and this ever since its adoption in 2008. As part of this assistance, in 2009 the Commission organised a series of regional seminars and technical training sessions inviting national authorities from third countries. The seminars were very successful and saw the participation of authorities from countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the South Pacific. In addition, the Commission presented the Regulation in numerous regional and international meetings. Naturally Member States too received technical training from the Commission. Moreover the industry was regularly consulted during the drafting stage of the new requirements in the past few years.
The Regulation was adopted on 29 September 2008 to combat the escalation of illegal fishing and to complement the yet insufficient counter measures taken at regional and international level and will enter into force on 1 January 2010.