The European Union recently adopted an overhaul of its fisheries control rules. The new Regulation includes important new provisions concerning the control of marine recreational fisheries. The revised legislation applies directly in all EU Member States even though some provision for commercial fisheries will enter into force later on.
In May 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal to revise the fisheries control system. The main objective was to modernise and simplify the rules for monitoring fisheries activities while ensuring compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), including the – at the time - newly adopted landing obligation for commercial fisheries.
It took five years to the European Parliament and the Council to adopt the proposed legislation. The European Anglers Alliance, together with the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association, have engaged into the adoption process at every stage to defend the interests of European recreational fishers and try to seize this reform as an opportunity to collect more data on recreational fishing across Europe.
The new rules for recreational fisheries, mostly described under Article 55 of the new Regulation, constitute a major change compared to the current situation:
-Recreational fishers will have the obligation to be registered or licensed, depending on the system chosen in each Member State.
-For the first time, all recreational fishers will be obliged to register and report their catches on a daily basis through an electronic system for species subject to Union conservation measures. This will concern for example, seabass in the Atlantic, cod and Salmon in the Baltic, bluefin tuna and swordfish. The compulsory recording of catches will later on be enlarged to further species based on scientific advice, for stocks for which recreational fisheries have a significant impact (by 2030).
-Within two years of the entry into force of the regulation, Coastal Member States will have to collect data on catches from recreational fisheries according to their own methodology and report these data to the European Commission once a year. This concerns all species covered by fishing opportunities, a multiannual management plan or subject to the landing obligation – i.e. commercial species.
-The marketing and sales of catches from recreational fisheries remains prohibited. The Member States will be tasked to check recreational fisheries’ compliance and determine appropriate sanctions.
There are also new rules for commercial fisheries which will progressively apply. Amongst the key new provisions:
-Within two years, all fishing vessels above 12 meters will have tracking devices on board (Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS)) as well as electronically record their catches. Within four years, all vessels below 9 meters also must be equipped with VMS and electronically record their catches. However, exemptions from the VMS requirement may be granted until 31 December 2029 in the case of certain small-scale coastal fishing vessels under 9 metres in length.
-Remote electronic monitoring tools, such as CCTV (Closed-circuit television) will be used in the case of larger vessels, above 18 meters long, which are considered to pose a high risk of illegal discards.
-Some larger vessels, depending on their engine power and fishing gears, will be equipped with a device to measure engine power. This will ensure that their fishing capacity remains within the limits set out in the CFP.
-The sanctioning system in case of non-compliance with the rules has also been reviewed. The notions of ‘serious’ infringement and repeated infringements, as well as minimum sanctions have been defined. For example, the value of fishery products caught by a vessel will define the minimum level of a fine applied to it in case of a serious rule’s violation. If there is repeated infringement, the penalty will be at least twice the average value of the products.
-The margin of tolerance will be kept at 10% per species, as is the case currently. Other margins of tolerance are defined for specific species (small quantities, small pelagic catches, etc).
A number of more detailed rules must be defined in the secondary legislation and some provisions will enter into force only in a few years.
The regulation will be published in the EU Official Journal in early January and will enter into force 20 days after that.
the text agreed by the European Parliament and the Council.