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Maria Damanaki

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Fisheries control – key to achieving our objectives

Visit to the European Fisheries Control Agency

Vigo, 13 February 2012

Dear Pascal, dear members of the staff,

Good afternoon,

I am delighted to visit you here in Vigo. This morning I have understood the reality of the operations room and have been offered very informative presentations on your current and future activities.

Please be assured, even more now, that I value your work highly. On a daily basis, you coordinate operations stemming from different countries; you train inspectors from Member States and third countries.

Last year, you made a crucial contribution to the Bluefin Tuna inspection campaign: you can be proud to have contributed to the sustainability of that stock. When the Commission had to take urgent measures for pelagic fisheries [mackerel], you worked swiftly to adopt the necessary Joint Deployment Plan. I am grateful for this excellent work. Let us not rest on our laurels however, as we know that much remains to be done in those areas, for instance as regards traceability and monitoring of BFT farming activities.

Indeed, for the future, the immediate one, we – and with "we" I mean the Agency and the Commission - need to meet very demanding challenges:

  • We need to ensure that Member States implement the Control Regulation fully.

  • We need to anticipate the implementation of the reform of the common fisheries policy.

  • We will have to do the job with less financial and human resources. The same is true, as you know, for the Commission. We are on the same boat in these difficult times of budget tightening. Such periods are rarely pleasant, but they can create the right humus for modernisation.

We have to determine our core priorities and focus our efforts on those: there is no other option.

This is why I count very much on this Agency's capacity to evolve, improve and adapt under the leadership of Pascal and with the guidance of its board. Control lies at the heart of the Common Fisheries Policy: without rigorous implementation, the CFP is not credible. Moreover, control is only accepted by fishermen if there is a level playing field. To realise that, I need the dedication of this Agency.

For me, a systematic, methodical implementation of the Control Regulation is key. That is precisely what we do for instance with quota deductions in case of overfishing. This is also why I intend, end of this month, to issue guidelines on quota deductions, to ensure rules are applied equally to all fishing nations.

In a period of constraints, I would like the Agency to focus on its core business. Other activities will need to be set aside, at least for the time being.

  • Your core business is, first and foremost, the Joint Deployment Plans.

    They have proven useful to create confidence between Member States. It is now time to move up a gear.

    We need to move towards a regional, multi-species approach. In the new Common Fisheries Policy, we are going for decentralisation and sea-basin strategies: that is a given. I think the JDPs should be adapted to the new approach to Control and Inspection Programmes, as quickly as was done recently for pelagic stocks in Western Waters. The discussion we had this morning on this offers further promising perspectives.

  • Secondly, capacity building remains important. You must continue training inspectors, establishing best practices, thereby helping Member States to raise the quality of their inspections, especially those lagging behind.

  • A third, crucial aspect of your work is cooperation with third countries. I know you have already started in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean as regards bluefin tuna. Resources permitting, I would like to encourage this kind of exchanges.

    I'm telling you: we are dealing with burning environmental issues. Zero tolerance on fraud and IUU means that pirates should be deprived of what they have stolen from honest fishermen who respect the sea and its rhythm.

The year 2012 will be a pivotal year because of the ongoing CFP reform. Sure, our plan is still in the making right now, but it is crucial that we all start thinking, brainstorming, getting ready already now on implementing future rules.

Notably, we need to start thinking on how to implement, in practice, the prohibition of discards that the reform will introduce. Practical solutions exist, from CCTV to observers on board. I look forward to discussing with you, recognised specialists, this issue this afternoon.

As you know I feel strongly about discards and about stock preservation in particular: the reform is not a luxury, it is an ecological, social and economic imperative. "Laisser-faire" is not a solution in this area. We need strong and committed authorities to avoid that short-sightedness and greed empty the seas and oceans.

Steve Jobs once said "Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?" He certainly did not want to promote IUU fishing, but was promoting thinking "out of the box". This is what we need in those times of CFP reform. This is also what I hope to be doing with you in this afternoon's session.

I raise my glass to you all and look forward to our continued cooperation.

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