New rules empowering the European Commission to ban EU imports of fish from overfished stocks were approved by Parliament on Wednesday. Bans should discourage massive overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroe Islands. In other votes, MEPs said that the coming reform of EU fisheries policy should aim to make it sustainable.

The regulation, approved with 659 votes in favour, 11 against and 7 abstentions, opens the way to trade sanctions against third countries that allow unsustainable fishing of fish and fishery products from stocks of common interest (i.e. fish stocks available to the fleets of both EU and third countries whose management requires cooperation between them).

Rapporteur Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE, IE) said: "While the regulation may be used against any third countries, the situation in the North East Atlantic is of immediate concern to all of us. Iceland has unilaterally increased its mackerel catch from 363 tonnes in 2005 to 147,000 tonnes in 2012. The Faroes' quota for mackerel has soared from 27,830 tonnes in 2009 to 149,000 tonnes in 2012".

Should these sanctions prove ineffective, the Commission may adopt additional measures, such as restricting the use of EU ports by vessels flying the flag of a non-compliant country or by vessels carrying fish from the overfished stock to the EU.

A country allowing "unsustainable fishing" in this context is one that fails to cooperate in the management of a stock of common interest in compliance with international agreements, and fishes at or above the levels that can produce maximum sustainable yields (or does not adopt necessary fishing management measures).

Fresh marketing rules

MEPs also paved the way for stronger and properly-funded producer organisations to counterbalance the power of retailers, by adopting new rules for the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products, (620 votes in favour, 27 against, 27 abstentions), with a view to the forthcoming common fisheries policy reform. These rules will also require producers to label fresh fish products with the date of landing and other information useful to consumers.

Furthermore, reducing unwanted catches, e.g. by promoting the use of more selective gear, should be a priority, says the regulation.

Rapporteur Struan Stevenson (ECR, UK): commented: "I believe that we have arrived at a good conclusion, as this is the first of three legislative reports which will comprehensively reform the Common Fisheries Policy. I think there are many interesting signposts in this CMO package which point the way for the Common Fisheries Policy".

Reform for sustainability

In a resolution on common fisheries policy reform, MEPs call for sustainable exploitation of marine resources, based on multiannual management plans and underpinned by a clear timetable in the forthcoming basic regulation on the new policy. (Rapporteur Nikolaos Salavrakos EFD, GR - 461 votes in favour, 131 against, 42 abstentions)

A further resolution, adopted during Wednesday's vote on the European Commission's reporting obligations, urges the Commission to impose sanctions on member states that do not provide sufficient reliable data for the European fisheries data programme. (Rapporteur Carl Haglund, ALDE, FI - adopted by a show of hands).

Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 1st reading (common market organisation, non-sustainable fishing); non-legislative resolution (CFP reform, reporting obligations)