EU Calls for Better Enforcement of Fisheries Laws

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Published Apr 25, 2017 9:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The European Commission has released a new review of its fisheries control regulation, which was adopted in 2009. While EU member states have put most of the regulation's measures into effect, the EC said, many have not yet fully implemented it. 

"Our evaluation . . . showed that more needs to be done to fully implement certain provisions. It is also clear that the current legislative framework is not entirely fit for purpose," said commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries Karmenu Vella. 

Many of the regulation's objectives have been achieved, including national-level Fishing Monitoring Centers; national control programs; surveillance and tracking measures; and improved data collection and reporting. Compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is also up. However, the EC found that not all national fisheries authorities use the regulation’s enforcement tools consistently, and the regulations for small vessels (under 10 meters) are poorly implemented across the board.

Data obtained by environmental lawyers ClientEarth showed minimal use of the regulation's punitive enforcement measures by certain member states. The NGO asserts that legal penalties are being assessed too infrequently, especially in Northern European nations, and the penalties that are imposed are often too mild to serve as an effective deterrent. As an example, ClientEarth found that about 90 percent of fisheries enforcement cases in France in 2014 were settled out of court, many with fines in the low four figures. 

"If EU countries don’t properly enforce fisheries laws, there won’t be enough fish in the sea. It’s as simple as that," said ClientEarth lawyer Elisabeth Druel. "This report shows that the Control Regulation has been working to a certain extent, but that it also needs all member states to show real commitment to enforcing the Common Fisheries Policy."