07/11/2011 November 2011: Report on the fight against illegal fishing at global level – the role of the EU
At the first November plenary session of the European Parliament, MEP Isabella Lövin (Sweden, Greens/EFA) will present her report on the role of the European Union in the fight against illegal fishing at global level. There are between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish being caught illegally every year which represents about 15% of the global catch. This situation leads to large economic losses and has a significant negative impact on employment in the sector. Furthermore, it calls into question how we control our maritime resources.
The relevant European legislation already has two regulations: regulation 1005/2008 establishing a community system that aims to prevent, discourage and eradicate illegal, undeclared and unregulated fishing; and regulation 1224/2009 establishing a community system of controls to ensure that the rules of the common fisheries policy are adhered to. The report, while recognising the importance of this EU legislation, also advocates the adoption of new measures in the appropriate global forum that could be implemented by the European Union. Indeed, due to the transnational aspect of the problem, the fight against illegal fishing should also be considered on a bilateral and multilateral level.
A need for more transparency
Food security for consumers is one of the issues tackled in this report. It proposes improving transparency when it comes to traceability of fish caught. For this reason, it is calling on the European Commission and Member States to improve the different food labels such as the MSC’s one (Marine Stewardship Council) for example, which provides consumers with information on management of fisheries and the consequences of fisheries’ activities on the environment (degree of environmental damage, impact on fish stocks etc.). On the other hand, MEPs are also calling on the European Commission and Member States to develop traceability techniques for fish production, through satellite checks on fishing boats and even establishing DNA testing to identify the geographical origin of the fish.
Better transparency on implementation of European legislation by Member States is also advised. In addition, the report is calling on the Commission to publish an annual report on each Member State’s performance in implementing the common fisheries policy. This will help highlight the aspects of the legislation that need to be improved as well as weaknesses in Member States. It will also enable the Commission to identify Member States that are not compliant with legislation in this matter.
In the case of non-compliance with European legislation, MEPs are adamant that the European Union’s credibility on the international scene in this area can only be assured if it imposes adequate sanctions on Member States or third countries who do not respect the legislation. Member States’ compliance with the legislation will be measured through checks on European citizens’ support for or participation in this illegal activity.
As highlighted in the report, the lack of information on illegal fishing leads to an increase in this type of fishing. The report stresses support for the Commission in its objective of establishing a public register listing the identities of boat owners who participate in this type of illegal fishing. The report advocates that this register be aligned with that of the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA).
Call for greater coordination among stakeholders
Several of the report’s provisions relate to the actions that the EU must consider taking to fight illegal fishing within the Regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) of which the EU is a contracting member.
The report contains several proposals that the EU could carry out within these RMFOs, such as:
Regional fisheries management organisations (RMFOS) are international bodies established by countries that have fishing interests in a specific geographic zone.
Some organisations are responsible for managing total fish stocks in a given area. Others focus on highly migratory species such as tuna, throughout vast geographic areas.
- Establish compliance committees to analyse the actions of contracting members and, if needs be, to impose sanctions;
- Establish boat inspections on the open seas as well as monitoring programmes;
- Propose banning transhipment at sea (i.e. transporting another boat’s cargo);
- Implementing obligatory and regular evaluations of the performance of individual RMFOs by an independent body such as the UN with a requirement that the recommendations are taken on.
In addition, due to the diverse nature of RMFO approaches in the area of illegal fishing and the global dimension of fishing, the report advocates that the EU take global action in this area by:
- Encouraging ratification or membership of States to the international legal instruments on fishing, by adding them to the list of instrument that must be complied with in order to be a country eligible for the Generalised System of Preference (GSP);
- Supporting establishment of a global database of genetic data from fish stocks that will enable identification of species and stocks.
Besides the demand for greater cooperation at global level, the report also contains proposals on coordinating European Union/Member State actions. MEPs are in fact calling on the European Commission to create a European Coastguard to enable common controls in the fight against terrorism, piracy, illegal fishing, marine traffic and pollution. The report is also calling on the Commission to continue its efforts to promote information exchange in order to integrate maritime surveillance and to harmonise coastguard services at European level.
Linking illegal fishing and organised crime
One of the important parts of this report is that MEPs want to see two phenomena more closely linked – illegal fishing and organised crime. MEPs are basing this on a 2011 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. This report analyses the vulnerability of the global fishing industry with regard to criminal activities and it paints a sobering picture of the expansion of organised crime into fishing activities on a European and on a global level.
According to the report, the fishing industry seems susceptible to certain criminal activities such as human trafficking, tax evasion, customs fraud and even corruption. There have even been incidences where fishing boats have been used for drug trafficking, arms trafficking and terrorism.
As a result, the parliamentary report stresses the need for the EU to support certain recommendations contained in the United Nations report, such as:
- Improve capacity for investigating criminal activities taking place at sea;
- Improve transparency and traceability of fish catches to expose criminal activities and reduce profits from these activities;
- Improve follow up on the activities of fishing boats and their links with merchant ships.
This fight can only be carried out at global level so the report is also calling for greater cooperation between the European Union and countries with which it has signed partnership agreements on fishing. Lastly, the report stresses that the best way to fight this illegal scourge is by commercial means. MEPs are therefore calling for more coordination within the European Commission between DG Trade and DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
Find out more
- Fisheries Committee calls for international action to fight illegal fishing - European Parliament