The revision of the fisheries control system ongoing in Brussels

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14 Feb

The European Commission published its proposal for a revision of the fisheries control regulation in May 2018. The European Parliament and the Council of the EU started to work on the text back then but lacked time to agree on a final version before the end of the legislature. Following the European elections that took place in May 2019, the new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) decided to restart the work on the text from the beginning. Clara Aguilera Garcia, an experienced MEP from Spain, was appointed rapporteur. The hope is that the new regulation will be finalized and adopted by the end of the year.

The control regulation is a very important piece of legislation for the recreational fisheries sector as it seeks to regulate recreational fisheries (Article 55). Some of the current proposals move in a positive direction while the EAA and EFTTA hold the opinion that some would benefit from a more nuanced approach. 

The proposed compulsory registration or licensing system can be seen as positive as it would allow to collect more data on recreational fisheries and better data is instrumental for a better policy. The EAA, together with EFTTA, consider that it is vital that the choice between a registration and a licensing system is left to the Member States, in order to take into account the current situation in each country. Where there is no system in place, a free of charge registration should be the method of choice. 

The Commission also proposes a catch reporting system for recreational fisheries. The EAA and EFTTA support sensible catch registration that is limited to stocks subject to Union conservation measures. Priority should be given to electronic reporting as to prevent overburdening of anglers practicing a leisure activity while leaving the possibility for anglers who would like to report differently to do so. 

Marking of recreational fishing gears is also proposed. This would be a positive step towards better control especially for the use of nets and traps as it will improve the identification of the owner and the removal of illegal nets and traps. However, an exemption for rods is needed as there is no benefit for fisheries control purposes to be attained by such marking. 

The tracking of vessels used for recreational fisheries proposed by the Commission seems unnecessary and impractical. Every object that can carry a person on the water would have to be registered including canoes, rowboats and jet skis, which all can be used to fish from. As all recreational fishers will have to be registered, and catches are regulated per person and not per boat or vessel as is the rule for commercial fishers, there is no need for a recreational vessel register. It does not add value for fisheries management and would come with a huge administrative burden. 

The EAA and EFTTA do propose to include a definition of charter boats in the new regulation. Charter boats are hired by anglers to bring them to the places at sea where they want to fish. Charter boating has a big growth potential and could bring a positive contribution to the EU blue growth strategy. It is, for example, one of the very few businesses that can generate sustainable economic activity in marine protected areas. The charter boat sector is not well organised nationally or at the EU level. A charter boat chapter in this piece of legislation could be an important first step in that direction. 

Overall, the main challenge for MEPs and EU Member States is to ensure a practicable, proportionate and fair approach to the different fisheries sectors. Reinforced controls of recreational fisheries should go hand in hand with improvements to the small-scale fisheries controls as proposed by the European Commission (i.e. withdrawal of exemptions regarding catch recording logbooks, inshore vessel monitoring systems and less allowable quantity of fish to be sold directly to consumers). Above all, the management of recreational fisheries should not be about the catches only. The economic value of recreational fisheries should be considered whenever restrictions are proposed so decision-makers will know of the negative impact these restrictions could have on the recreational fisheries sector. 

The EAA and EFTTA advocate the sustainable development of sea angling and would like to see its growth potential come to fruition, together with the recreational boating and charter boating sectors. The control regulation can be an obstacle or a help for that to happen. 

For more information on the EAA and EFTTA’s position: EAA/EFTTA position paper on the revision of the control fisheries system

Link to the European Commission's proposal 

Related article “Fisheries Control: the Commission’s proposal for a revised regulation published” 

Link to the European Boating Association position on the registration of recreational fishing vessels

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