Illegal fishing distorts trade, hurts efforts to rebuild depleted stocks and conserve species and will have a long-term impact on the environment and food security, the Fisheries Committee warned Tuesday. An estimated 11-26 million tonnes of fish a year, representing 15% of global catches, comes from illegal fishing. The committee calls on the EU to promote global action, including more inspections at sea and closing markets to illegal fisheries products.
The own-initiative report by Swedish Green Isabella Lövin says international cooperation is the only way to tackle the problem because of the mobility of fish stocks and fishing fleets and because around two thirds of the world's oceans are outside national jurisdictions. It also says that as a major fishing power and the biggest importer of fisheries products, the EU should play a key role.
"The EU should do more to promote effective international cooperation to combat illegal fishing...we need to ensure that ruthless operators cannot simply change the flag of their vessels to avoid their responsibilities," Ms Lövin said. "With many fish stocks around the world already perilously threatened, illegal fishing could be the final straw."
Technology exists, political will doesn't
MEPS say the technology to monitor and prevent illegal fishing exists, but the political will is missing. Among the proposals in the report are:
frequently updated, global blacklists of vessels fishing illegal
compulsory use of electronic vessel monitoring
development of catch documentation schemes
a stronger role for regional fisheries management
a ban on the sale of fishing vessels to companies with untraceable owners
sanctions on member states failing to observe common fisheries policy rules
aid to third countries being conditional on compliance with international rules
Closing markets to illegal seafood
MEPs noted that all major fish markets must back the measures if they are to be effective so they want the EU to negotiate with countries including the US, Japan and China to develop international rules, perhaps through the World Trade Organisation.
The committee voted unanimously in favour of the report, which will be go to the November plenary session in Strasbourg.