REPORT How to make fisheries controls in Europe uniform
18.7.2016 - (2015/2093(INI))
Committee on Fisheries
Rapporteur: Isabelle Thomas
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
How to make fisheries controls in Europe uniform
The European Parliament,
– having regard to paragraph 3 of Article 3 of the EU Treaty, which foresees the need for a commitment to the ‘sustainable development of Europe’, including the provision of a ‘high level of protection and improvement of the environment’, and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Articles 11, 43 and 191 thereof,
– having regard to Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,
– having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,
– having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy,
– having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, and in particular Articles 15 and 36 thereof,
– having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 768/2005 of 26 April 2005 establishing a Community Fisheries Control Agency,
– having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1010/2009 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,
– having regard to Regulation (EU) No 2015/812 as regards the landing obligation, and in particular Articles 7 and 9 thereof,
– having regard to Implementing Regulation (EU) No 404/2011 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy,
– having regard to its resolution of 5 February 2014 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries (A8-0068/2016) (‘European Fisheries Control Agency’ – PECH/8/05354),
– having regard to the resolution of the Committee on Fisheries (B8-0581/2016) (‘traceability of fishery and aquaculture products in restaurants and retail’ – PECH/8/05296),
– having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries (A8-0234/2016),
A. whereas the scope of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 establishing a Community control system is the European Union;
B. whereas the inspection forms in the different inspection report model in Implementing Regulation (EU) No 404/2011 are not harmonised among themselves, using different names for the same topics, thus creating operational difficulties in information transfer between authorities;
C. whereas the last data exchange protocols, which are essential for the implementation of electronic logbooks, were completed in July 2010, and whereas electronic logbooks have been mandatory since January 2010;
D. whereas there is real inequity, or inequity is felt by fishermen, as regards the regularity, frequency, duration, severity, thoroughness, effectiveness and methods of fisheries control in Europe, and a need for equal and non-discriminatory treatment;
E. whereas fisheries control efforts should necessarily count on the full and active participation of the fisheries sector;
F. whereas a points-based system penalises fishing vessels, and not ship owners, fishermen or other people throughout the production chain;
G. whereas the fisheries sector is a major stakeholder in the sustainable management of the seas and oceans;
H. whereas, quite apart from possible regional variations, substantial differences exist in the application of European regulations in Member States, particularly those deriving from the ‘control’ regulation, and whereas each Member State has its own distinctive legal system as well as different administrative and judicial structures, which are inevitably reflected in the systems of administrative and/or criminal penalties for failure to comply with CFP rules and in the fact that those systems lead to discrepancies and unfairness from one Member State to the other;
I. whereas risks have been identified in that national inspection authorities do not always have access to relevant data in order to inspect foreign vessels effectively, and whereas different approaches to controls and sanctions pose problems for Member States when they follow up with flag states on infringements detected;
J. whereas there is a need for stricter checks on products coming into the EU from illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries and a need to guarantee an equivalent level of control on such fishing in all Member States;
K. whereas the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 and the corresponding sanctions are the responsibility of the Member States;
L. whereas some Member States lack units of specialised fisheries inspectors;
M. whereas the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), which was set up in order to promote the highest common control standards under the common fisheries policy, plays an effective role in the uniform implementation of the control system in spite of the limited resources at its disposal;
N. whereas the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) can contribute to the improvement and modernisation of fisheries control, particularly through its budget headings 11-06-62-02 (control and application of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP)) and 11-06-64 (EFCA);
O. whereas the discard ban has been implemented and, in practice, is unfairly harsh on fishing operators because even though the operators use tools and instruments that are permitted under EU law and use every possible means to avoid incidental catches, they may be punished for the mere fact that these catches exceed the maximum amount permitted under EU and national laws;
P. whereas the techniques and equipment used for fishing have changed and have evolved, and the systems and techniques used for monitoring also need to be updated in order to be efficient; recalls that the EMFF could be used for this purpose;
Q. whereas the landing obligation is a key issue as regards control, to which the legislator and the authorities responsible for control need to pay particular attention;
R. whereas low-cost remote tracking technologies, such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS), allow voluntary control and increase ease of monitoring and the safety of fishermen;
S. whereas illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and the trade in the resulting catches, constitute a criminal activity on a global scale;
T. whereas fish auctions play a vital role in the sea-food industry, and have a central role in controlling landed fish;
U. whereas Member States have different legal systems, and whereas the evidence gathered must be admissible and usable in these different systems, which are specific to each Member State that prosecutes;
V. whereas the best allies for implementing the Control Regulation are well trained, encouraged fishermen, who understand the benefits of these controls and actively respect them;
I - Disincentives for uniformity
1. Stresses the importance of ensuring effective control of fisheries activities in order to guarantee sustainable exploitation of living marine resources and maintain a level playing field among EU fleets; calls on the Member States to ensure effective implementation of the Control Regulation;
2. Stresses that the ambitious EU fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) all over the world should be matched by an effective application of the Control Regulation in our own waters;
3. Underlines the diverse fields of application of the controls and the disparity between different inspection sites, and the resultant discriminatory nature of fisheries controls, with some Member States organising control from gear to plate and others controlling only certain links in the chain and excluding aspects relating to transportation of catches or to catering, for example;
4. Recognises the significant improvement in the control regime brought about by the current Control Regulation, in combination with the IUU fishing regulation, in terms of consolidation of many previously separate regulations, the introduction of the possibility of using new technologies, preliminary steps towards harmonisation of sanctions, clarification of the roles of the Commission and the Member States, improvements in traceability and other advances;
5. Recalls that fishers’ acceptance of regulations is influenced by whether the implementation effects are considered fair, whether the imposed regulations are perceived as meaningful and whether there is compatibility between the regulation and traditional fishing patterns and practices;
6. Considers it necessary to clarify, classify and establish standards for fishing in the different maritime areas;
7. Notes the diversity in the organisation of controls, with some Member States splitting them up between different administrations and others carrying them out under the auspices of a single body, and also notes the diversity of instruments, tools, and human, logistic and financial resources used to conduct such controls; also notes that these circumstances make it difficult to ensure transparency in management and access to information;
8. Points out that the effectiveness of controls also varies on account of the immense diversity of fishing grounds within the EU, ranging from narrow, confined zones, whose fishery resources are shared essentially by neighbouring Member States, to very distant and remote zones; maintains that the specific features of the outermost regions (ORs), whose vast and eminently oceanic exclusive economic zones (EEZs), combined with the type of fish stocks exploited (mostly deep-water species and highly migratory pelagic fish) and the dearth of alternative resources, clearly warrant tighter control measures in those regions, which depend greatly on fishing and are very vulnerable to the extreme harm caused by fleets known to infringe CFP rules;
9. Urges Member States to fully and properly implement the Control Regulation, in order to have a clear view of which parts need to be improved in the upcoming revision and thus to ensure a functional and easily applicable Control Regulation for the future as well;
10. Notes a difference in approach between controls based on risk assessment and random checks on fishing activity and on marketing channels for catches;
11. Notes that the current complexity of technical measures and the vast number of provisions, possibly even contradictory, including multiple derogations and exceptions, provisions disseminated across a range of different legal texts makes them difficult not only to understand, but also to control and enforce;
12. Recalls that most random checks are performed at the time of landing, while inspections at sea reveal an apparently higher rate of infraction than those conducted on land, since they are based on risk assessment;
13. Recalls that, because the landing obligation for fisheries constitutes a fundamental change, the Omnibus Regulation ((EU) No 812/2015) provides for a two-year adaptation period before infringements of the landing obligation are regarded as serious infringements; calls for that period to be extended if necessary;
14. Notes that Member States, and sometimes regions as well, transpose the rules into national and regional law in different ways because of the large number of optional provisions in Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009; stresses the difficulties in enforcing some of its provisions in practice, either owing to the poor adaptability of the regulations to reality, for instance because of the defining characteristics of the fisheries sector (fleet, fishing gear, fishing grounds and target species), which vary significantly from one sea basin, Member State and fishery to another, or because of contradictions which may lead to several different interpretations by inspectors;
15. Notes that the level of infraction differs from one Member State to another, and that for the same infraction the sanction may be either an administrative or a penal one; contends that the points-based fishing licence system, with points deducted for non‑compliance, is relevant as a European instrument able to provide a framework for sanctions for serious infractions, but that without the necessary uniformity it aggravates an already inequitable situation entailing inequalities among operators in Member States; requests that such differences in sanctions be avoided;
16. Notes that the lack of trust and transparency between Member States is one of the key issues for the lack of data sharing regarding regulation; encourages that this situation be overcome in order to ensure and prove an equal level playing field for all fishermen;
17. Recalls that the EFCA ensures the application of common control, inspection and surveillance standards, and facilitates operational cooperation between Member States through joint deployment plans; reiterates the importance of strengthening the EFCA’s mandate in order to set up joint fisheries control operations enabling efficient coordinated action by many local, regional and national authorities, and by EU agencies performing coastguard duties at EU level; calls for the EFCA to deploy more resources for this task;
18. Considers that the implementation by the EFCA of a ‘core curriculum’ for the training of fisheries inspectors is an essential point for the standardisation of training and control procedures and calls for its use by all Member States; notes that Member States do not, unless voluntarily, have the same training standards, which means that the content of qualifications, recruitment and objectives are different;
19. Notes that fishermen are trained and informed differently from one Member State to the next and that no tool simplifying, or granting easier access to, the aims and substance of the ‘control’ regulation has been put in place; takes the view that this situation gives rise to a lack of awareness which is a major disincentive to the uniform application of this legislation that is desirable; strongly encourages the implementation of these tools as soon as possible;
20. Notes that even though consumers have, over the years, become more aware of the origin and identification of what they buy, thanks to a widespread awareness-raising campaign by the Commission, those same consumers are unable to obtain the appropriate information about the fish products they are served in restaurants, since there are no mandatory requirements for this final link in the commercial chain;
21. Stresses that the use of new monitoring and real-time information transmission and communication technologies is essential to improving maritime surveillance; asks for the instruments used by Member States to be made technically compatible, and for the partial sharing of databases relating to control and the resultant disparity and loss of efficiency to be discouraged;
22. Points out that there has been no assessment of the genuine non-enforceability of certain rules arising from the different technological levels of the vessels, the logistics on the ground and the organisation of the sector in different ports;
23. Stresses the role of the EMFF, particularly through its budget devoted to the control of CFP objectives which amounts to EUR 580 million for the period 2014-2020;
24. Stresses the need to ensure that the single market is uniform and that control requirements are complied with in an equivalent manner in the Member States, with a uniform level of quality in internal and external controls within Member States and no variation on the basis of the border at which products enter the EU;
II - Proposals for improvement
25. Is in favour of a simplification and improvement of Union legislation, as well as a reduction in the administrative burden with a view to achieving ‘better lawmaking’, in particular through a limited and targeted revision of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009, scheduled for and expected by 2017 at the latest, while retaining effective rules able to prevent, detect and sanction infringements of the CFP, and focusing primarily on better implementation of norms between different Member States, by researching in particular a greater harmonisation, provided that this simplification is based on the strong existing control framework and does not entail a watering down of the highest standards of protection concerning labour, the environment, trade unions or society;
26. Considers that a sound and harmonised control system is needed for the regionalisation envisaged in the new CFP; is firmly opposed to the ‘Control’ Regulation being weakened, and believes that Member States can already use the flexibility provided by the existing framework;
27. Demands that the European institutions work together with the fisheries sector in this review, particularly in the field of traditional small-scale coastal fishing, which any new legislation should seek to safeguard and promote;
28. Emphasises the need to hold discussions with the various national, outermost-region and regional authorities when creating or revising legal instruments;
29. States that closer cooperation between Member States would be a way towards further harmonisation of controls; stresses the importance in this regard of the expert group on compliance with the obligations under the Union’s fisheries control system;
30. Reminds the Commission of the need to create the legal and operative environment before implementing mandatory rules, thus avoiding paradoxical situations;
31. Considers that the Commission must attend to uniform and accurate transposition and verify the state of implementation of the existing legislation, for example by establishing a minimum percentage of consignments to be checked by each Member State; believes, furthermore, that control procedures must be transparent, even-handed and standardised, allowing Member States to be put on an equal footing as regards controls on their fishermen, and that the rules on control should be simpler, and more comprehensive and consistent;
32. Advocates a strengthening of controls to prevent the importation of fish from illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries by, among other measures, setting up national intelligence teams staffed with specialised fishing inspectors, who are best qualified to detect risks, and establishing a minimum percentage of consignments that must be checked;
33. Believes there is a need for the collection, management and use of good-quality data regarding the landing obligation, in order to control and assess the effectiveness of the implementation of the landing obligation and to bring data collection into line with the requirements resulting from the revised CFP;
34. Calls for the Member States and their respective sea fishery control authorities to set up teams of specialised fishing inspectors; supports and calls for increased cooperation between Member States through exchanges of inspectors, control methods and data, risk analysis sharing and shared information on quotas of flagged vessels;
35. Recalls that Member States are responsible for implementing the Control Regulation; calls on Member States to comply with their obligations and cooperate closely with each other in order to exchange good practices and data and make interoperability of control systems possible;
36. Considers that a uniform and predictable application of the different types of possible inspections, through a full definition, harmonisation and explanation of these inspections, would help to provide the necessary level playing field among all EU fisheries;
37. Points out that in certain regions basins are managed jointly with countries outside the EU, and calls for cooperation between Member States and non-member countries to be intensified;
38. Believes that Member States, the European Fisheries Control Agency, and the Commission need to work in closer cooperation and coordination;
39. Calls for the implementation by the EFCA and training institutions in the Member States of a uniform European training curriculum for fisheries inspectors based on a common syllabus and standardised rules, part of the funding for which could come from the EMFF;
40. Calls for the EFCA Core Curriculum to be translated and circulated widely, for example by means of application trainings for the national authorities, with the aid of the EMFF; proposes that this manual be supplemented with examples of good practice by inspectors;
41. Emphasises the importance of assessing and certifying the control training initiatives provided by third parties;
42. Proposes that training and information for fishermen be improved, both of which could be incorporated into their professional organisations and the coastal action groups (CAGs), with a view to improving their understanding of the purpose and general importance of the regulations and thus inculcating a culture of understanding and respect for them; recommends effective consultation with the advisory councils to this end; proposes that online databases be created for documents and information relevant to fisheries (including the penalty point system), as far as the data protection provisions in force permit, making the regulations accessible for all to read and understand; asks the Commission to assess existing training courses for future fishermen in Europe and to make its conclusions known by means of a communication;
43. Suggests that the idea of an EFCA electronic registry (EFCA single desk) be examined, with ready-to-print or electronic models for inspections and for the centralisation of inspection reports; notes that this EFCA electronic registry could also be used for receiving and centralising the capture certificates issued by Member States and third countries;
44. Proposes that the public communication systems used by control agencies be improved, and stresses the importance of periodically disseminating the work carried out and the results obtained and providing information on a permanent basis about the rules applied to fish resources, such as minimum sizes and temporal and spatial closures;
45. Stresses the necessity to strengthen the role of the EFCA, particularly its budget, competences and human resources; suggests revising the conditions of intervention referred to in Articles 94 and 95 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 and, in particular, giving it the right to intervene in respect of fishery resources which are overexploited and those which have not reached the maximum sustainable yield (MSY);
46. Stresses the importance of reinforcing and strengthening controls, especially in Member States that have so far demonstrated poor implementation of the Control Regulation, in order to combat illegal fishing, to comply with the rules of the CFP and to strengthen the quality of the data obtained;
47. Recalls the importance of having the capacity to share data in real time, especially during control operations carried out by the Agency in conjunction with the Member States and coordinated by the Agency through joint deployment plans;
48. Stresses the importance of increasing the presence of the EFCA close to the Member States, including the Outermost Regions;
49. Suggests that at least two representatives of the European Parliament be included on the Management Board of the Agency, on which there are already six representatives from the Commission and one from each Member State, this representation to have parity of composition (equal numbers of women and men) and to be appointed by Parliament's Committee on Fisheries from among its members;
50. Recommends expanding the controls – for example extending monitoring – to cover the entire production chain, and assigning responsibility for control at sea to a single administrative body, in order to avoid an overlapping of controls which wastes human, logistic, and financial resources and causes confusion and unnecessary pressure on those operating in the fisheries sector; in addition, calls for formal collaboration between the institutions of the Member States so that the entire fish production chain can be effectively controlled;
51. Asks the Commission to determine whether linking penalty points to fishing licences is appropriate; stresses that under this system points are transferred with the licence when the vessel is sold, which can reduce the value of vessels in some cases and may thus prevent their resale, for example to young fishermen wishing to start up in the business;
52. Recommends the adoption of specific measures with a view to achieving more aware and responsible consumption in restaurants, without ruling out a mandatory requirement for restaurateurs to provide minimum information about the products, whilst enabling consumers to exercise indirect control;
53. Proposes autonomous community or regional inspections for inland waters, national inspections for sea fisheries within up to 12 nautical miles and EU inspections for all other waters;
54. Takes the view that controls based on risk assessment should be based on a list of transparent, specific, and measurable minimum criteria defined at European level;
55. Calls for a standardisation of sanctions while keeping them at a level that is proportional and non-discriminatory and that acts as a deterrent; prefers economic sanctions, including temporary suspensions of activity, to penal sanctions, but also considers that, as provided for in Article 17 of Regulation (EU) N°1380/2013, preference should be given to incentives for fishermen who comply with CFP rules in order to prevent infringements;
56. Recalls that it is the Member States that have responsibility for sanctions and that the European Union is not legally able to impose standardisation thereof via Regulation 1224/2009; points, however, to the importance of the points system in providing a framework for sanctions, and calls on the Member States to take the initiative for an extensive standardisation of sanctions, in particular penal ones, in order to put an end to the inequities existing at present;
57. Takes the view that the by-catch system actually leads to objective and total liability for fishing operators, who are held to account even if they have acted in full compliance with the law and with the utmost diligence in order to avoid incidental catches;
58. Holds that the general principles of European Union law are incompatible with a system in which an individual is objectively held to account over something which he has done neither negligently nor wilfully;
59. Encourages the Commission and the Member States to consider the development of a harmonised minimum-level penalty, applicable to serious infringements and/or repeated illegal behaviour;
60. Advocates imposing harsher sanctions for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing;
61. Calls for the creation of mechanisms to highlight good examples in order to increase compliance;
62. Considers that the interpretation of some provisions, which lead to a penalty for exceeding the limit for incidental catches without even taking into account the absence of negligence or intent when engaging in lawful conduct, clearly conflicts with the fundamental principles of the European Union, which are enshrined in Article 6 TEU as primary law;
63. Calls on the Commission to lay down guidelines that can be readily applied and understood in order to prevent unequal treatment between Member States, especially where, by reporting by-catches voluntarily, fishing operators show that they have acted in good faith and that the catches were completely fortuitous;;
64. Takes the view that helping actors invest in modern technology and equipment compatible from one Member State to the other and easily updatable will make controls fairer, more balanced and more efficient;
65. Encourages the establishment of funding mechanisms to increase the use of low-cost technologies to enable voluntary control and increase monitoring and safety of fishermen, especially in small-scale artisanal fisheries;
66. Stresses the importance of electronic technologies (electronic reporting and electronic monitoring systems) which represent a potentially cost-effective means to widen observation of activities at sea;
67. States its opposition to any mandatory video surveillance system on board;
68. Calls the attention of the Commission to the fact that the use of new earth-observation technologies, such as Sentinel satellites, would be of benefit in fisheries control;
69. Recommends that equivalent controls be applied to imported fishery products, to shore fishing and to recreational fishing, as well as to the EU fleet fishing in non-EU waters and to non-EU countries’ fleets fishing in EU waters so as to ensure that the entire European market has an equivalent level of access; proposes that data exchange be made mandatory in connection with illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries (IUU);
70. Asserts that the available budgetary resources, particularly under the EMFF, should be realistic, consistent, and sufficient to pursue the objectives of controls;
71. Recommends ensuring the continued existence, notably through EMFF funding, of fish auctions vital to territories, as these contribute to transparency and traceability, and facilitate fisheries control;
72. Supports the inclusion of the impact of recreational fisheries in the revised Control Regulation;
73. Requests the development of a monitoring, information-transfer and data-analysis system which is compatible throughout the Union; further requests that it fall to the Commission to set the framework for the exchange of data and information, in accordance with the data protection provisions in force; stresses that a transparent framework for the exchange of data and information is key to ascertaining whether a level playing field exists;
74. Stresses that implementation of the landing obligation must be accompanied by appropriate flexibility with regard to its control, as the fundamental changes imposed on fisheries by this obligation should be taken into account, particularly as regards multi-species fisheries; reiterates the importance of progressively applying sanctions and the points system in the event of serious infringements linked to non-compliance with the landing obligation, in accordance with Regulation 2015/812 on implementation of the landing obligation;
75. Stresses that information on whether and how Member States are sanctioning different types of infringements, and whether sanctions are applied consistently, regardless of a vessel's flag, must be made available to stakeholders and the public, while fully respecting the privacy of those involved;
76. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.
Fishermen are often heard complaining that fisheries control is much stricter for them than for their neighbours, whether the neighbour is in another fishery or another Member State. Fishermen also say that their profession is more controlled than any other. This feeling of injustice poses a difficult question: that of the uniform application of the regulations, and therefore their effectiveness. If it is indeed questionable whether the regulations are enforced with uniform rigour, it is worrying that we could find ourselves in a situation where the rules are no longer respected on the grounds that they are not the same for everybody.
A few months before the revision of the Regulation on fisheries control, which one could have hoped for after the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and the introduction of the landing obligation, it is useful that the Committee on Fisheries is taking up this issue. The objective is twofold: identifying the shortcomings in enforcing the rules which lead to this sense of inequity and proposing solutions to improve the standardisation of controls under the common fisheries policy, which is, nevertheless, one of the most integrated policies in Europe.
I. Approach followed by Rapporteur
The rapporteur has relied on a number of trips to conduct meetings and find out about the different realities of fisheries control and has used these various visits (to Vigo in Spain, where the European Fisheries Control Agency is located; Kiel in Germany, Genoa in Italy, Ostend in Belgium, Lorient and Etel in Brittany and Boulogne-sur-Mer in the north of France) to lend substance to the report.
During the course of these visits but in Brussels too, the rapporteur was able to communicate with numerous fishermen, representatives of the European Fisheries Control Agency, as well as national and regional inspectors.
The rapporteur also initiated a hearing with the Committee on Fisheries to which the Director of the European Fisheries Control Agency as well as those responsible for fisheries control from several Member States were invited: France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain.
II. Rapporteur’s main conclusions
This report has enabled a number of findings to be addressed and a number of recommendations to be made.
1. Findings on disincentives for uniformity
As a result of various visits and meetings, the rapporteur was better able to appreciate the great diversity in the scope of control, procedures and strategies. Thus, certain Member States organise control from gear to plate through a single controlling body, while elsewhere, there are several bodies, and yet others concentrate on only some links in the seafood supply chain.
Each Member State has put in place its own training courses for fisheries inspectors, training standards, required knowledge and recruitment methods.
Training for fishermen is disparate, moreover, and the subjects of control and sanctions do not seem to be part of the knowledge required by fishermen.
- Control procedure and methods
Each Member State uses different control procedures. While a standardised form exists on which to note infractions on board a vessel, the procedures of control vary. As such, there is no sequential processing imposed for control procedures, for instance. Any contradictions or unenforceable regulations are simply left to the discretion of the inspectors. And lastly, the methods of control and the tools used are not necessarily the same.
It is likewise noted that Member States and even regions may transpose the regulations into national law differently because of the large number of optional provisions in Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009. The non-enforceability in practice of some of the provisions of the Regulation has also been raised on numerous occasions, whether owing to the poor adaptability of the regulations to reality or because of contradictions such as in Article 17 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009, open to subjective interpretation by inspectors.
Furthermore, the method of calculating risks is sometimes very subjective and not particularly transparent, possibly giving rise to questioning on the part of professionals as to the reasons for repetitious inspections.
Finally, the European Fisheries Control Agency carries out joint deployment plans which enable actions between Member States to be coordinated. Nowadays, the Agency’s mandate to carry out joint projects is restricted to the very limiting one which is granted to it by Member States under the provisions of Articles 94 and 95 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009. That aside, the Agency’s budget is too weak, and it should be noted that the CFP and the omnibus Regulation were adopted without allocating a corresponding budget to the Fisheries Control Agency.
Court proceedings and sanctions differ throughout the European Union: for the same infraction, the sanction may be either administrative or penal. It should be noted that in Member States where the sanction is penal, the appearance in court of fishermen together with individuals accused of assault seems inappropriate and paradoxical, because this situation contributes to very low penalties.
The general view is that economic sanctions, such as days at sea restrictions, are the most effective.
The points-based system introduced in the ‘control’ regulation of 2009 was an attempt to standardise economic sanctions imposed for serious infractions at European level. Its implementation is, however, devalued by the different interpretations by Member States, which creates a distinct lack of professional support, made worse by the transferability of the penalty to the vessel and not to individuals, a new legal scenario inconsistent with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The provisions introduced in the EMFF likewise enable recourse to European sanctions.
- Instruments (technologies and tools)
The instruments, tools and financial resources used to effect controls also vary from one Member State to another. Unfortunately, this incompatibility between some instruments and technologies used by the Member States results in a loss of effectiveness. The example of the diverse technologies used for logbooks raises the issue of the use of competitive tendering at European level. Similarly, it is noted that certain technologies used are becoming dated and are inefficient, something which is all the more deplorable given the lack of funds allocated to modernisation of control technologies.
- Data collection
Databases used by Member States are not always shared, yet are essential for the evaluation of risks and control strategies. Citing confidentiality of certain data as the reason runs counter to standardisation.
Some administrations have established online databanks which are accessible to all as a means to index all catch data, equipment used, and commodity prices. This practice has the dual advantage of making data available whenever required and supporting control efforts.
2. Report proposals
- Harmonisation of the scope
Existing Community legislation should be simplified, primarily through the revision of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 scheduled for 2017. The Regulation as it stands is a veritable Russian doll; in order to understand what a long-term plan means, for example, one has to piece together dozens of articles. Moreover, the use of the conditional should be proscribed.
There seems to be no escape from implementing a European training programme for inspectors and drafting a single set of standards on matters of control. Training for fishermen should also be strengthened. Such training could be promoted through and incorporated into their professional organisations, with a view to improving their understanding of the purpose and importance of the regulations and of controls and thus inculcate a culture of respect for them. The creation of online databases making the regulations accessible for all to read seems equally urgent, and although Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 stipulates the creation of public websites, they do not exist everywhere.
Finally, consultations with advisory committees currently exist on paper but remain ineffective, marked notably by the very short periods within which committees have to respond to consultations. It is important that these committees are completely involved in the decision-making process, since this would guarantee acceptance of the regulations and their relevance.
- Procedures and methodologies
Steps should be taken to standardise procedures across Europe and strengthen the role of the EFCA, particularly as regards its resources and scope. Today under its guardianship, real progress can be seen where it has intervened through joint deployment plans. It would therefore be useful to let it intervene where it deems it most appropriate, namely at all fisheries whose catches concern species below the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Given the strong strategic competence of its Management Board, it is incomprehensible that the European Parliament is not represented, and it would be appropriate to include it.
It is equally important that control procedures are transparent and standardised. To this end, controls based on risk assessment should be objective and assessed in a transparent manner, and the risk criteria developed at European level.
Finally, different controlling bodies should coordinate among themselves in order to avoid a competitive situation and to streamline operations.
It is imperative that sanctions for the same infraction are the same for everybody and that incentives are introduced. The creation of a function of a judge specialising in maritime matters in each Member State would be a first step in this regard.
The controls will become more effective as the actors invest in modern technologies compatible with each other. Thus satellite tracking of vessels, for example, also makes it possible to identify infractions on land and focus on the interventions required.
In this regard, available budgetary resources, primarily through the EMFF, must be consistent with the objectives of control and enable research and innovation to be encouraged. Using the resources of the EMFF would be a way for control policy as a whole to be updated. Unfortunately, the EMFF’s current level of funding is insufficient.
Just as in legislative work, data are of utmost importance for effective control. Data make it possible for strategies to be defined, efficiencies optimised, and fisheries, vessels and the highest risk practices to be targeted more precisely. It is therefore necessary for Member States to gather data which is compatible and ensure their transfer to land.
In concluding this report and summarising the requirements for uniformity, the rapporteur feels compelled to put down in writing what one fisherman said: ‘The fleet can absorb more restrictive regulations, but it cannot be that these are not the same for everyone.’
RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE
Result of final vote
Members present for the final vote
Marco Affronte, Clara Eugenia Aguilera García, Renata Briano, Alain Cadec, David Coburn, Diane Dodds, Linnéa Engström, João Ferreira, Carlos Iturgaiz, Gabriel Mato, Norica Nicolai, Ulrike Rodust, Remo Sernagiotto, Ricardo Serrão Santos, Isabelle Thomas, Peter van Dalen, Jarosław Wałęsa
Substitutes present for the final vote
Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Ole Christensen, Ian Duncan, Jens Gieseke, Maria Lidia Senra Rodríguez