Fisheries control revision: last chance for the European Parliament to make it right

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05 Mar

After months of negotiations between political groups, the European Parliament (EP) will vote during its plenary session to adopt a position regarding the revision of the EU fisheries control system. MEP Clara Aguilera, the Rapporteur, will be given a mandate to start the inter-institutional negotiations (ie trilogues) with the Council (Member States) and the European Commission. This vote is seen as the last chance for the EP to show its support for a genuine improvement of the monitoring and control rules and fine-tune some provisions, including concerning recreational fisheries.

Recreational fisheries in the EP’s report

In the text adopted in early February, the Fisheries Committee has taken on board a number of recommendations made by the EAA and EFTTA concerning rules for recreational fisheries:
  • the introduction of a definition for recreational charter boats;
  • keeping the Commission’s proposal for a compulsory registration or licensing system for recreational fishers;
  • the collection of data regarding recreational catches for stocks subject to conservation measures;
  • limiting the tracking of vessels used in recreational fisheries to charter boats; and
  • ensuring a proportionate approach to the marking of gears used in recreational fisheries.

However, in the final stages before the adoption of the text by the plenary, EAA and EFTTA continue to call on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to ensure a clear distinction between recreational charter boats and pesca-tourism and clarity over rules applying to activities undertaken and catches made in each context. Pesca-tourism is a commercial fishing activity, undertaken by commercial fishing vessel, as a supplementary activity, taking tourists onboard to watch or take part in the fishing activity. Any ambiguity regarding the rules applying to activities undertaken on board of fishing vessel and the associated catch registration should be avoided.

Last chance for MEPs to make it right

Regarding commercial fisheries, the text, while it contains some positive improvements, also proposes to relax a number of provisions that will increase the underreporting of catches by commercial fishermen. Such relaxations work against the efforts of the EU to come closer to fully documented fisheries and to achieve the Common Fisheries Policy objectives.
The positive elements include:
  • Location monitoring systems mandatory for all fishing vessels;
  • Mandatory reporting of all catches in an electronic logbook;
  • Standards for sanctions to be harmonised across the EU;
  • Better monitoring of Marine Protected Areas; and
  • Member States’ reports on fisheries controls to be made publicly available on an annual basis.

However, the Fisheries Committee has failed to adopt a mandatory approach for the installation of onboard CCTV (cameras) to ensure compliance with the landing obligation. It has also weakened the rules proposed by the Commission regarding reporting and controlling of the amount of fish caught and landed. The text also seeks to significantly delay the entry into force of some key provisions.

The EP, (virtually) sitting in plenary, will vote on the Fisheries Committee’s text and additional amendments on 10 March, after a debate on 9 March. Through amendments tabled in plenary, MEPs can still improve the text and correct some loopholes.

MEPs must ensure that the rules they vote for will provide the means to bring the EU close to achieving the Common Fisheries Policy’s objectives to ensure that fishing is sustainable. And this cannot be achieved by increasing control and monitoring rules for recreational fisheries while relaxing those for other fisheries.

Next steps

In the meantime, Member States are still in the process of discussing their common position within the Council. The Portuguese presidency has stated its ambition to reach agreement (called a “general approach”) by the end of its term, end of June 2021.
Once both institutions, the EP and the Council, have adopted their respective positions, interinstitutional negotiations will begin, with the view of finding an agreement on a final revised fisheries control system.

Follow the debate in plenary (on 9 March 2021 from 15:00): here
EAA/EFTTA position paper on the control regulation (January 2020): here

Text adopted in the Fisheries Committee (February 2021): here

Last update from the Council (November 2020): here

Commission’s proposal (May 2018): here
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