Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none


Brussels, 14 November 2008

Reform of Common Fisheries Policy control framework – questions and answers

Why is it necessary to propose a new control regulation?

The current regulation on fisheries control dates back to 1993. It has since been amended a dozen times, in particular in 1998 to include the control of fishing effort, and in 2002 during the last reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The resulting system has serious shortcomings that prevent it from being as effective as it should be. As both the European Commission[1] and the European Court of Auditors[2] have highlighted, the current system is inefficient, expensive, complex, and it does not produce the desired results. This in turn impacts negatively on the implementation of other elements of the CFP and undermines the success of conservation and effort management initiatives. Control failures thus contribute to the negative performance of the CFP, which appears unable to deliver on its fundamental objective.

Despite several years of implementation of the 2002 Reform, which has introduced a number of potentially powerful conservation measures, the state of resources in EU waters remains worrying. Some 88% of stocks are overfished, and this threatens both fish stocks and the livelihoods of fishermen. If we allow this situation to continue, the negative impact on fisheries resources, the fishing industry and regions dependent on fishing is likely to be very serious. That is why the Commission proposes to substantially reform the control system of the CFP, addressing all its shortcomings and modernising its approach.

What are the main shortcomings of the existing system?

There are three main kinds of problems with the current system:

  • A control and inspection framework which has not kept pace with changes in fisheries management, and remains disproportionately focused on activities at sea.
  • A low detection rate and lack of effective deterrent sanctions have not encouraged a culture of compliance in a world where too many vessels are chasing too few fish.
  • The Commission lacks the powers it needs to exercise full control over the Member States' implementation of CFP rules, and to intervene when necessary to ensure a level playing-field.

The cumulative and ad hoc nature of previous revisions and amendments means that the current framework is also greatly in need of simplification.

Will the new system proposed really be more effective?

The proposed regulation takes a focused approach to addressing each of the problems listed above, and introducing concrete measures to correct current failings.

  • Control and inspection will be focused where it is most effective through an approach based on systematic risk analysis. Inspection procedures will be standardised and harmonised for all stages in the market chain, including transport and marketing. Use of modern data-processing and communications technologies will be extended. Where possible, data processing will be automated, and subject to systematic and comprehensive cross-checking. The result will be a system which is more effectively targeted, more effective, and also less costly and burdensome to operate.
  • Harmonised administrative sanctions will be introduced, which reflect the economic benefit derived from the infringement, so as to create a truly deterrent effect. Minimum and maximum fines will be established, and a penalty points system will be introduced, which can lead to fishing permits being suspended, or even withdrawn, after a certain number of points have been accumulated. New, more effective systems for sharing control data will be introduced, and the mandate of the Community Fisheries Control Agency will be extended, to enable it to play its role more effectively.
  • Commission inspectors will be given the same powers as national inspectors, allowing them to carry out inspections on their own initiative without prior notification. Where failings are detected, the Member State will be given the opportunity to remedy the situation through an action plan drawn up in collaboration with the Commission. The Commission's powers to close fisheries when quotas are exhausted will be strengthened, and it will be able to impose financial sanctions on Member States for poor management of their obligations under the Common Fisheries Policy, including withholding funding granted under the European Fisheries Fund or to support their control systems.

Will the new system proposed not cost more?

On the contrary, the proposal will reduce the administrative burdens, and makes the system less bureaucratic. The Commission's impact assessment found that with the reform adopted, the total administrative costs for operators would be reduced by 51% (from € 78 to 38 millions), largely through the extension of modern technologies (extension of the use of Electronic Reporting System (ERS), Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), Automatic Identification System (AIS)).

Existing paper-based tools will be replaced at all stages of the fisheries chain (log book, landing declarations and sales notes). For example, the electronic logbook will lower the administrative burden for the fishermen, as certain basic information will be automatically recorded whereas when using a paper logbook, the fishermen has to fill in each time and on each sheet all information. The time spent filling in the logbook should be reduced by almost 70%, as the fishermen will only need to fill in the catch data.

The system will be quicker, more accurate, less expensive and will allow automated processing of data. It will also facilitate cross-checking of data and information, and the identification of risks. The result will be a more rational and risk-based approach in practice to control actions at sea and on land, which is inherently more cost-effective.

The proposal will also remove the current obligation on Member States to transmit lists of fishing licenses or fishing permits to the Commission, which will instead be made accessible by electronic means to the control services of their own country and of other Member States, as to the Commission.

How will the penalty points system work?

The penalty point system will basically work in the same way as the existing systems applied to traffic offences in most Member States. The number of points to be attributed for specific infringements will be fixed in an implementation regulation. Every time an infringement is committed, the appropriate number of points will be attributed to the offender in the national registry of fishery offences of the flag Member State. Infringements committed in other Member States will be communicated to the flag Member State.

Any vessel which accumulates more than a certain number of points in any one three-year period will have its fishing authorisation suspended for six months. Once the suspension period is over, if the offender then goes on to accumulate the necessary number of points again within a three year period, then the fishing authorisation will be suspended for a duration of 12 months. If, after the end of the second suspension period, the offender again accumulates the necessary number of points, the fishing authorisation will be withdrawn for good. All outstanding points are cancelled once the offender completes a period of three years during which no infringement is recorded. Penalty point systems would apply both for the fishing vessel, and for the master and the officer of the crew.

How far will the Regulation go in harmonising sanctions? Why is it necessary to do this?

The proposal adopts the same approach as the recent Regulation on fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing[3]. Under this approach, a maximum penalty must be imposed which is equivalent to at least five times the value of the fishery products obtained by committing a serious infringement, or at least eight times this value in the case of a repeated serious infringement.

For cases where the severity of the infringement cannot be directly linked to the value of any fishery products obtained in the process, the proposal therefore lays down an appropriate range for such sanctions, extending from a minimum sanction level of 5000 € to a maximum level of 300,000 € for serious infringements (and the double of these amounts in case of a repeated infringement). This approach leaves sufficient room for taking account of the particular details of each individual case. The aim of the new regulation is to ensure that the level of sanctions for serious infringements does not fall below a certain limit to ensure a level playing field across the EU. In so far as these limits are respected, the new regulation will not prescribe the actual level of sanction to be applied in any individual case.

How will the traceability system work in practice?

The proposal introduces a comprehensive traceability system so that all fish and fisheries products can be tracked throughout the market chain. Fisheries products will have to be packed in lots on which certain minimum information (identification number of the lot, name of the species, live weight, catching or harvesting data, the production unit) must be provided. This information must be made available to the competent authorities.

This information will also have to be entered into the validation system where it will be cross-checked systematically with other information available for these fishery products. The information for every lot must be available all along the production chain.

Where and to whom do the new rules apply?

The regulation would apply to all fishing activities in EU waters. For that reason, the rules will also apply to the fishing activities of third countries in EU waters. In the case of bilateral agreements with third countries which contain specific provisions on control, these provisions will take priority over the proposed regulation.

The regulation will also apply also to all EU vessels irrespective of where they operate, including outside EU waters. However, it will not take priority over the special provisions contained in fisheries agreements between the EU and third countries in the waters of which EU vessels operate, or over the measures that apply within the framework of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

The regulation also applies, subject to the primary responsibility of the flag state, to nationals of Member States involved in fishing under non-EU flags.

See also IP/08/1710

Further information and documents can be found at :

[1] COM/2007/0167 final

[2] Commission reaction to the Court's report: see IP/07/1862 and MEMO/07/552

[3] Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Side Bar