The European Commission today proposed a new system to grant and manage fishing authorisations, allowing authorities to better monitor both EU vessels fishing outside Union waters and international vessels fishing in our own waters.
Today's proposal forms part of the implementation of the new Common Fisheries Policy, which states clearly: whether they are fishing inside or outside the EU, our fishers must be subject to the same rules and standards. Monitoring the activities of the EU fishing fleet, wherever they are, is crucial to promote sustainable fishing and combat illegal operations.
The new Regulation will apply to all EU vessels fishing outside EU waters, wherever they operate and irrespective of the legal framework under which the fishing takes place. These vessels will not be able to fish in third country waters or in the high sea unless they have been previously authorised by their flag Member State, i.e. the state under whose laws the vessel is registered or licensed.
To obtain authorisation, they will have to show that they comply with a set of criteria that the EU considers essential – for instance that they have an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number and a valid fishing license, and have not been found guilty of infringements.
The flag Member State, under the supervision of the European Commission, will have to check the vessel's information thoroughly before granting authorisation and will enter this information into an official register.
This naturally facilitates monitoring and record keeping of our vessels' activities abroad, with obvious advantages when it comes to enforcing the EU's sustainability rules. Having all EU vessels subject to the same set of rules also adds legal clarity and fairness for the sector, even in the case of private licensing and reflagging. Third countries will benefit as well from the additional safeguards of stricter controls. And as the vessels' information will be partly made public, citizens will have a better overview of where and how their fish was caught.
By improving control on EU vessels, the proposed Regulation will contribute to the fight against illegal fishing and set a new international standard for management and control of external fleets – thus contributing to better global fisheries governance.
This revision follows from the "Basic Regulation" of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, which needs to be consistently reflected in the rules on fighting illegal fishing, on controlling fishing activities and on managing the external fishing fleet. Consistency between these three sets of rules is paramount to ensure that the Union's fishing activities outside Union waters are sustainable and based on the same principles and standards as those applicable under Union law in European Union waters.
The proposed Regulation would repeal the current legislation and extend its scope to any situation where a Union vessel is fishing outside Union waters, including direct authorisations (private licences), reflagging operations and chartering. It would also apply to third country fishing vessels fishing in Union waters.
The Regulation is expected to come into effect in 2017, after adoption by the European Parliament and the Council.