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Brussels, 18 September 2014
Enforcing fisheries rules: Questions and answers on new Portuguese control action plan
What does this action plan seek to achieve?
Effective fisheries control is essential for the sustainability of European fisheries. This is best achieved if all fishermen in the EU play by the same rules. To that end, the Commission is working with all the Member states individually to bring their national control system up to European standards. Where general, systemic shortcomings are identified action plans are drawn up to identify steps needed to address these shortcomings.
The Portuguese action plan focuses largely on the catch registration system, with the aim to ensure that the essential data required to effectively monitor catches are complete, reliable and available in a timely manner. For example, measures within the action plan include the development of IT tools to enable more effective data collection, sharing and analyses. A fully functioning catch registration system is essential for national control authorities to monitor that fishing quotas are respected and overfishing avoided.
Several measures in the plan aim to re-establish the chain of control, and the flow of catch data between mainland Portugal's fisheries authorities and those of the Portuguese offshore archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira.
Also included are measures which focus on Portugal's inspection activities, to support a more robust control system; for instance the introduction of risk assessment as a tool to enable strategic use of inspection resources and the improvement of coordination and resource sharing between the different authorities involved in inspection activities (Navy, Air force, National Republican Guard (GNR), and the fisheries authorities of the Azores and Madeira).
In addition, there are measures which aim to inform fishing communities, raise awareness and ultimately increase the degree of compliance by the fishing industry.
Which other countries have an action plan in place?
Before today's announcement action plans have already been agreed with Malta, Spain, Italy, France, and Latvia whilst others are in the pipeline for Bulgaria and Romania.
An administrative inquiry is ongoing in Bulgaria and in Romania to tackle shortcomings identified in their turbot fishery. The objective is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of these failures in order to identify concrete remedial actions that will be carried out in an agreed timetable. Depending on the outcome, action plans could be adopted in due course.
What if a Member State does not follow through with its Action Plan commitments?
Where there is no, or insufficient, action taken by the Member State within the deadlines fixed in the action plan, the Commission could start infringement proceedings.
Who does what in the EU fisheries control system?
Fisheries rules and control systems are agreed on at EU level, but implemented by the national authorities and inspectors of EU Member States. The day-to-day enforcement of the rules is for the national authorities: national inspectorates monitor for instance what gear is being used, or how many tonnes of fish are caught and then landed.
To encourage closer collaboration and exchange of best practices, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) in Vigo, Spain, organises joint control campaigns, where inspectors from different EU countries work together.
The Commission has its own body of inspectors, but they do not police the fishermen directly. Rather, their role is to inspect the control systems put in place by the Member States, and make sure that the CFP rules are enforced effectively and fairly across the whole of the EU. In that capacity they also can participate in national inspections. In order to be able to assess the reality on the ground the Commission inspectors carry out both announced and unannounced inspections in Member States.
What has the Commission done on control since the Regulation came into force?
The Commission has tackled non-compliance issues by issuing 45 warning pilot letters to Member States previously identified in preliminary infringement proceedings. Most of these cases have been satisfactorily resolved.
However, systemic control deficiencies identified in audits cannot always be addressed effectively in individual basis, and require an action plan with a set of complementary corrective measures. The results of this work can be seen today with the Portuguese action plan, the previous adoption of similar plans in Malta, Spain, Italy, France and Latvia, and the plans in preparation with regard to Bulgaria and Romania. All of these constitute concrete, detailed roadmaps for the improvement of control systems.
The aim was to move away from cases involving structural issues requiring adaptations to complex administrative systems to a more cooperative and collaborative way of working with Member States than in more traditional infringement cases, which can take a longer period of time before yielding results on the ground. Action Plans are one way of demonstrating this approach. In order to be able to assess the reality on the ground the Commission also carries out both announced and unannounced inspections in Member States.
Other important milestones in the development of the Control Regulation include coordinated inspections by means of Joint Deployment Plans and data exchange programmes between Member States and the European Fisheries Control Agency. Moreover, a new a Fisheries Expert Group on Compliance will be established, following the CFP Reform, to allow the Commission and Member States to strengthen and simplify control implementation in an open and transparent way.
Is control funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund?
Yes, the new EMFF €690 million control budget almost doubles the amount made available for control. Out of this amount, € 580 million has been ring-fenced to support the development of control programmes such as these action plans.
For more information
The EU system for fisheries controls: