Today, European fisheries ministers have agreed a joint position on the European Commission’s proposal to regulate the sustainable management of the EU external fishing fleet (EC 2015/636), which according to WhoFishesFar.org, totaled 22,085 vessels between 2008-2015. Oceana is disappointed that EU fisheries ministers removed the option that would give the European Commission the power to withdraw authorizations when a Member States fails to monitor their fleet correctly. Ministers also rejected the requirement put forward that only vessels with a clean compliance record can apply for a fishing license to fish in non-EU waters, thereby allowing vessels that previously committed a serious infringement access to non-EU fishing grounds.
However, Oceana does welcome their new commitments to increase transparency in EU vessels in non-EU waters by creating a first-ever public database and also preventing abusive “flag hopping” or “reflagging”, where an EU vessel exits the EU fishing fleet and reflags to a non-EU country, in order to continue fishing after exhausting the EU quota or to circumvent conservation and management measures or applicable laws.
“Transparency in fisheries is an essential tool to prevent illegal fishing, avoid obscurity in private deals with third countries and ensure sustainability for fisheries resources. Oceana is fully behind the idea to create a public database of vessels fishing worldwide. This is a step in the right direction by EU fisheries ministers to enhance transparency for European businesses”, said Maria Jose Cornax, Fisheries Director of Oceana in Europe.
The scale and reach of the EU’s fishing activities abroad is such that ensuring the legality and sustainability of its operations can have a significant impact on the long-term conservation and management of global fish stocks.
“It is therefore particularly regrettable that the EU fisheries ministers failed to give the Commission the power to intervene and removed the requirement that only vessels with a clean compliance record can apply for a fishing authorization. We really hope these two aspects will be put back in the final text to increase the oversight and monitoring of the European fleet as a whole”, added Cornax.
The Proposal is currently also being discussed by the European Parliament and Oceana urges Members of the European Parliament to act as the voice of Europe’s citizens in making sure these two key provisions make the final text.