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Brussels, 19 January 2006
Strengthening enforcement of fisheries measures and making it more uniform throughout the European Union is one of the pillars of the Common Fisheries Policy reform. The online publication of the fisheries scoreboard is part of the actions taken to meet this goal.
Member States must submit a range of data on set dates so that the Commission can ensure that they are effectively enforcing CFP rules. If reports are sent late or, as is sometimes the case, not at all, corrective measures cannot be taken in time to prevent damage being done to fisheries resources.
This third edition of the scoreboard is the first to be compiled following the enlargement of the European Union. It provides information on Member States’ compliance with their reporting obligations in five areas: management of fisheries resources, fleet management, funding to the sector, environmental issues (new this year), and national and EU monitoring activities (including pending infringement procedures).
Member States must keep a close eye on the catches of their vessels so that fishing can be stopped before the quotas set by the Council of Fisheries Ministers on the basis of scientific advice have been exceeded. In this respect, there has been no significant improvement compared to last year. Three Member States – Denmark, Sweden and the UK – complied fully with the rules by submitting all the required catch reports on time, while three others – Cyprus, Malta and Slovenia – failed to submit any reports at all.
According to the data supplied by Member States, the number of quotas that were overshot decreased slightly from 2% in 2003 to 1.8% in 2004. The extent of overfishing of the quota concerned varied substantially, from less than 1% to 68%, as did the related quantities. The Member States most concerned are Ireland and, for the second year in a row, Spain.
Member States must also report to the Commission on the enforcement of limits on the fishing effort exerted by their vessels in a number of specified fisheries. The situation in this area regressed, with only two Member States – Belgium and Sweden – meeting their obligations fully in 2004, as compared to three in the previous year, while France, Ireland and Portugal failed for the third year in a row to submit any data at all.
It should be noted that Commission inspectors continue to observe failings in the control and enforcement activities of Member States, particularly in the monitoring of catches and landings. This means that undeclared landings, misreporting (reporting catches in a different geographical area from the one where the fish were actually caught) or under-reporting of catches can all go undetected. Scientific reports have often mentioned the impact which such practices have on stock assessment. In turn, this can lead to a situation in which many fisheries remain open despite the fact that they are being overfished, sometimes long after the related quotas have been filled.
Some progress has been made in the compliance of Member States with their obligations regarding the transmission of information to the Community fleet register. Almost all the new Member States are in full compliance, but the information submitted by Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal was once again incomplete in various degrees. In the case of Spain, France and Italy, the missing information concerned a large number of vessels. However, Ireland and the UK, which had some missing information last year, are now in full compliance with their fleet register obligations.
All Member States were required to re-measure their fishing vessels in gross tonnes by the end of 2003, and most succeeded in meeting this deadline. The overall situation has considerably improved from last year, particularly in the case of Portugal where significant effort has been exerted on this issue. Spain is the Member State with the highest number of vessels still to be re-measured (1,450 vessels out of 14,002). France, Italy, Poland and, marginally, the UK have also failed to complete the re-measurement exercise.
Compliance with the obligation to provide information on the name and address of a vessel’s agent, owner and place of construction was almost universal. This is thanks to a major effort on the part of Portugal, Italy and, to a lesser extent, Ireland, which were lagging behind last year in this area.
Most Member States comply with the Entry-Exit regime ceilings, which limit the tonnage of vessels entering and leaving the fleet, with the exception of Belgium and Italy. Moreover, all Member States concerned, except for Belgium, have managed to bring their fleets in line with the reference levels set under the Fourth Multi-Annual Guidance Programme (1997-2002) (these provisions do not apply to the Member States that joined the EU in 2004).
Funding to fisheries
Compliance with the obligation to submit progress reports on the implementation of structural programmes under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) has improved considerably compared to the previous editions of the Scoreboard. Around 35 % of the reports for 2003 (21 out of 60) and 40% for 2004 (24 out of 60) were received on time compared to 26 % for 2002 (9 out of 49). On the other hand, only one report for 2003 (United Kingdom -Cornwall) and one report for 2004 (Italy) were not submitted, compared to three for 2002. In addition, the number of reports that were submitted more than 30 days late has progressively decreased from 25 in 2001 to 10 in 2004. With regard to reports on the implementation of control measures related to the use of structural funds, 39 reports out of 60 were received on time for 2004 compared to 9 out of 49 for 2003. Three reports for 2004 (2 from Italy and 1 from The Netherlands) have still to be transmitted to the Commission.
Only Sweden submitted its 2004 national report on shark finning on time, while five Member States (Ireland, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands and Slovenia) had still not submitted their reports when the Scoreboard was being prepared. In 2003, all Member States concerned submitted their report well after the deadline had expired. As for the list of vessels authorised to use drifnets in the Baltic Sea, Germany and Sweden sent their lists for the year 2005 on time, while Poland failed to submit its list. In 2004, only Sweden respected the deadline established by the relevant Community rules.
Monitoring and control
In July 1999, the Council adopted a list of types of conduct which seriously infringe CFP rules. Member States must report annually on the action taken following the detection of serious breaches to the rules. The Commission notes again, that shortcomings in the reports received make comparison difficult. However, from the data received, it appears that after falling substantially in 2002 to 6,756 cases, the number of serious infringements rose again in 2003 to 9,502 – well above the 2001 figure. As in previous years, the commonest form of serious infringement was unauthorised fishing.
As in previous years, the majority of the 69 infringement procedures currently pending relate to allegations of over-fishing (49). These are followed by a second group of eight procedures relating to the failure by Member States to forward to the Commission certain information regarding catch and fishing effort.
The Court of Justice of the European Community recently handed down a number of judgements concerning the Commission’s applications to the court. Seven of these related to overfishing, with the Court ruling against Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Finland and Sweden. Another judgment censured Greece for failure to comply with time limits for VMS implementation. The judgement against France for failing to enforce a 1991 Court ruling relating to failings in implementing a number of technical measures is a landmark case for the enforcement of the CFP rules. France has been ordered to pay a lump sum of € 20 000 000, as well as an additional penalty of € 57 761 250 for each period of six months of non compliance with this judgement.