The EU must do more to block illegal seafood products from the EU market

Press Release Date: September 26, 2022



Irene Campmany | email: | tel.: +34 682 622 245

European Court of Auditors determines that there are effective EU rules in place to prevent illegal fishing and to stop illegally-caught seafood from ending up on European dinner plates. However, the rules are undermined by a lack of effort from Member States, including a failure to impose deterrent sanctions. Because of the uneven implementation by EU countries, there is a risk that illegal products are still entering the EU market, and in several Member States the economic benefit from fishing illegally is higher than the sanctions imposed. The auditors recommend that Member States strengthen their import controls and increase the level of sanctions. The EU body has released an assessment of the EU system to fight illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Quote 1: The EU is the world’s largest importer of seafood products (60% of the seafood consumed in the EU). This comes with a responsibility to ensure that the fisheries products that we import are fished legally and are also sustainable. Despite having strong EU legislation in place to fight illegal fishing, EU countries are failing to stop such products from arriving to the EU market. Illicit operators pick the EU Member State where their illegal fishing products are most likely to enter without questions. Once in the EU market, the product can move freely. It is therefore key that all Member States improve their import checks, stop rubber stamping seafood imports and start carefully looking at products coming from high-risk countries.

Quote 2: When illegal fishing activities are detected, a fine of 200 euros is not deterrent enough for vessels who operate with a profit of thousands of euros. Sanctions need to be dissuasive. The Auditors describe cases where even for serious infringements, Member States only issued a warning, not a sanction. The current system, which allows countries to pick and choose what they sanction, fails to stop illegal fishing and is unfair to fishers who comply with the rules. It is therefore key that the future EU Fisheries Control Regulation establishes a clear list of serious infringements that counts for the entire EU and creates a minimum sanction.”

Quote 3: The Court of Auditors report does overlook another large implementation gap of the EU IUU Regulation: whereas it is illegal for EU citizens or businesses to profit from illegal fishing activities, very few Member States currently supervise and sanction the illegal activities by their citizens or businesses in non-EU waters or with vessels fishing under the flag of non-EU countries.