With the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries due to vote this week on the political agreement reached three weeks ago with the Council of the EU, industry organisations have made clear that transparency and involvement on the process and methodology to implement the new control devices are essential.
Industry representatives state as a reminder to policymakers that these new technological appliances will not solve the problems created by Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) elements such as the Landing Obligation, for which several times revisions have been requested.
‘Such revision should refocus on optimum selectivity and maximum avoidance of unwanted catches without enforcing the unworkable,’ state representatives of EAPO and Europêche, while reiterating their their appreciation of the work over the past few years by Members of the European Parliament and the Member States to make the Commission’s proposal on new control rules more flexible and closer to the fisheries reality.
‘As it was the case with the previous regime, once adopted, the sector will aim to comply with the new control system and will cooperate to make it operational,’ they state.
‘After five years of tough negotiations, new fisheries control rules are hot off the press and MEPs will have to decide whether or not to endorse the text. The sector, represented by Europêche and EAPO, finds positives in the text such as stronger provisions on traceability to ensure that imported and processed products have the same traceability requirements as EU produced seafood,’ an EAPO representative said.
‘Also, both organisations welcome the adoption of specific margins of tolerance for small-pelagic and tropical tuna species. These new rules will better account for the specificities of these fisheries when reporting their catches and will help to avoid unfair sanctions and penalty points they are receiving due to the impossibility of complying with previous generalist rules. The new text also strengthens the monitoring of recreational fisheries to better evaluate and control its impact on commercial fish stocks.’
Europêche and EAPO note that the regulation imposes burdens and costs related to technological requirements on fishing operators.
‘The sector regrets that, rather than working to make the landing obligation workable, the common decision was to double down on enforcing and controlling an unapplicable piece of legislation. The mandatory roll-out of CCTV will not suddenly make the landing obligation regime workable nor will it prevent unwanted catches from reaching the fishing nets. Same rationale applies to the mandatory introduction of engine power monitoring devices for certain vessels,’ the organisations state.
Europêche and EAPO are requesting clarity on the methodology to be used at EU and national level to implement these new digital tools, particularly on how the risk-based approach will work in practice. Industry representatives demand their involvement in the policy implementation process to ensure a pragmatic and feasible approach.
‘The challenge to ensure equal and harmonised implementation of the new rules and requirements across EU Member states is not clearly addressed in the new proposed regulation, and neither is the interoperability of the data systems and technologies that EU countries can use under the new regime,’ Europêche and EAPO state.
‘When the new regulation is implemented in the EU, we call for the extension of these rules and devices (including CCTV and engine monitoring devices) to the non-EU fleets operating in EU waters, in line with the Regulation on Sustainable Management of External Fishing Fleets1, and to avoid any exemption to be granted under trade or fisheries agreements.’
The add that in order to maintain coherence between the internal and external dimension of the CFP, the EU should seek to implement these rules in international waters. For that purpose, the EU should use Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and fisheries agreements with third countries to try to level the playing field for all fleets.
‘The sector welcomes the harmonisation of the enforcement regime but reminds the importance of having proportionality when it comes to sanctions to ensure that fishers do not pay the price twice,’ the Europêche and EAPO representatives state.
‘EAPO and Europêche call for a level playing field when it comes to weighing plans, since the differences in implementation between Member States is detrimental to EU vessels landing in other member States.’