According to a report compiled by the European Commission, unauthorised catches, falsification of documents, incorrect processing and non-compliance with minimum sizes appear at the top of the list year after year
Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, has analysed the European Commission’s annual report concerning non-compliance of member states with the Common Fisheries Policy. In the last report, which analyses infringements committed in 2006, the European Commission concludes by stressing that Member States are not complying with their obligations under the Common Fisheries Policy.
According to Ricardo Aguilar, director of projects for Oceana Europe: “It is disappointing to see how these infringements tend to concentrate on fish populations subject to recovery plans or supposedly protected by a Member State. In other words, those fish stocks in the worst state are affected by the most serious infringements.”
Italy, France, Spain and Portugal account for over 80% of the infringements and also commit more serious offences (8,641) in relation to the size of their fleets (43,863). Furthermore, some countries surprisingly declare zero infringements, such as Malta and Estonia. Non-compliance is becoming so common that the Commission has warned that the fishing industry itself may be treating certain economic sanctions as merely another ordinary operating cost, hence stripping current legislation of its power.
A new Control Regulation is the subject of debate in the EU over the coming months. The Regulation proposal presented last November, includes interesting advances such as the improvement of electronic reporting systems, improved catch traceability and increased capacity for control assigned to the Commission. Due to the current state of European stocks, however, Member States must recognise the need to pursue offenders, a need they do not seem to recognise today.
Reports concerning continued irregularities and the permissiveness of the countries concerned are piling up and nothing is apparently being done. The Community Fisheries Control Agency states, for example, that despite all the meetings held between the Commission and the implicated countries, the majority of the countries involved in the bluefin tuna fishery in 2008 did not place importance on complying with the established regulations. As such, 40% of the inspections carried out on tug boats involved in the bluefin tuna fisheries yielded irregularities. The situation was no better than in 2007 and, after closing the fishery early, irregularities were still being committed. Oceana observed these irregularities at close quarters during its Mediterranean campaign on board the research vessel Marviva Med.
“To watch the EU institutions pointing out the countries with low levels of compliance and running after them to remind them to respect current legislation is a spectacle that should embarrass European Governments,” states Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana Europe. “Let’s hope the new Control Regulation includes effective measures that will give the Commission power to force the countries to comply with current regulations. If not, any policy will be useless.”
after its 2008 Mediterranean campaign
 Preliminary version. Specific report regarding the implementation of the Joint Deployment Plan for bluefin tuna fishing activities in 2008 in the Mediterranean and Atlantic Community Fisheries Control Agency.