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PV 17/11/2011 - 4
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PV 17/11/2011 - 6.10
CRE 17/11/2011 - 6.10
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Thursday, 17 November 2011 - Strasbourg
Combating illegal fishing at the global level

European Parliament resolution of 17 November 2011 on combating illegal fishing at the global level - the role of the EU (2010/2210(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982,

–  having regard to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and to the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992,

–  having regard to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas, approved at the 27th session of the FAO Conference in November 1993 (‘Compliance Agreement’),

–  having regard to the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (‘UN Fish Stocks Agreement’ – UNFSA of August 1995),

–  having regard to the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, adopted in October 1995 by the FAO Conference,

–  having regard to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, adopted in June 1998 (‘Aarhus Convention’),

–  having regard to the FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU), endorsed by the FAO Council in June 2001,

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission on a Community action plan for the eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing of May 2002 (COM(2002)0180),

–  having regard to the Declaration made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development held from 26 August to 4 September 2002 in Johannesburg,

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 February 2007 on the implementation of the EU action plan against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing(1),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (the ‘IUU Regulation’)(2), Council Regulation (EC) No 1006/2008 of 29 September 2008 concerning authorisations for fishing activities of Community fishing vessels outside Community waters (the ‘Fishing Authorisations Regulation’)(3) and Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 of 20 November 2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy (the ‘Control Regulation’)(4),

–  having regard to the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), approved at the 36th session of the FAO Conference, held in Rome in November 2009,

–  having regard to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2011 report on Transnational Organised Crime in the Fishing Industry,

–  having regard to the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) Reference Report ‘Deterring Illegal Activities in the Fisheries Sector – Genetics, Genomics, Chemistry and Forensics to Fight IUU Fishing and in Support of Fish Product Traceability’, published in 2011,

–  having regard to the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), which will take place in Brazil in June 2012,

–  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries and the opinions of the Committee on Development and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A7-0362/2011),

A.  whereas 71% of planet Earth is covered by oceans, which store 16 times as much carbon dioxide as the terrestrial world and play a fundamental role in the climate and life support systems of the entire planet, as well as providing a substantial portion of the global population with food, livelihoods, energy and transport routes;

B.  whereas Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing has been reported to account for between 11 and 26 million tonnes a year, equivalent to at least 15% of world catches, making the economically, socially and environmentally sustainable management of the exploitation of the world's marine resources impossible;

C.  whereas the agreement approved at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity held in October 2010 in Nagoya established the international obligation to at least halve the loss of biodiversity by 2020;

D.  whereas the world's oceans constitute 90% of the habitat for life on earth;

E.  whereas two thirds of the world's oceans are beyond national jurisdiction, lacking comprehensive policies to govern international waters (the high seas), with current patchy laws mainly based on 17th century principles of freedom of the seas, ignoring many of the environmental principles that have long been applied for land and the atmosphere;

F.  whereas one of the objectives of the FAO Agreement on port state measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is to eliminate ‘ports of convenience’ that provide a safe haven for IUU vessels and serve as a port of entry for the trade in illegal catches;

G.  whereas the new EU control package, consisting of the IUU Regulation, the Control Regulation and the Fishing Authorisations Regulation, constitutes a comprehensive set of instruments to combat this scourge of the oceans, since it specifies the flag, coastal, port and market State responsibilities of both the EU Member States and third countries;

H.  whereas the EU is the world's largest importer of fisheries products and one of the world's major fishing powers, and it therefore has a major responsibility to play a key role in mobilising the international community in the fight against IUU fishing;

1.  Believes that IUU fishing is one of the most serious threats facing the biodiversity of the world's oceans;

2.  Is convinced that IUU fishing is a major environmental and economic problem worldwide, in both marine and freshwater fisheries, undermining fisheries management efforts, threatening the sustainability of fish stocks and food security as well as distorting the market, with incalculable social and economic repercussions on society as a whole, including in developing countries;

3.  Emphasises that IUU fishing and associated commercial activities constitute unfair competition for fishermen and others who operate in a law-abiding fashion, and creates economic difficulties for fishing communities, consumers and the entire sector;

4.  Highlights the world leadership role assumed by the EU with the new control package, consisting of the IUU Regulation, the Control Regulation and the Fishing Authorisations Regulation; considers that it constitutes a wide-ranging and comprehensive set of instruments to combat this scourge of the oceans, since it specifies the flag, coastal, port and market State responsibilities of both the EU Member States and third countries, as well as obligations with respect to the activities of their nationals; urges the firm application of these instruments;

5.  Stresses the need to increase coordination among the Commission, the Community Fisheries Control Agency and the Member States in order to improve information gathering and exchange and assist in the rigorous and transparent application of Union fisheries legislation;

6.  Considers that the responsibility for ensuring compliance of vessels with the relevant management and other rules, for collecting and reporting catch and effort data, and for ensuring traceability, including through the validation of catch certificates, must remain with the flag State, as delegation to another State would undermine the fight against IUU fishing;

7.  Insists that the Commission and the control authorities in the Member States be provided with sufficient resources (human, financial, technological) enabling them to fully implement these regulations;

8.  Stresses the need, in the interest of the EU's credibility, for the Commission and the Member States to identify and sanction EU operators who violate EU legislation, and considers in this context that there is still some way to go before the EU is satisfactorily combating IUU fishing on its own territory and by EU operators elsewhere;

9.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to ensure that illegal fishing is combated at sea and in inland waters and underlines the need to review the sufficiency of control mechanisms and their implementation;

10.  Calls for the review of the common fisheries policy to be used to create incentives for legal fishing in the interests of the fish, the environment, consumers and producers in the EU;

11.  Calls on the Commission to investigate – before the end of 2012 – whether recreational fishing in the EU exists on such a scale that it can really be classed as IUU fishing;

12.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to cooperate with a view to the creation of a ‘European coastguard’ in order to boost common monitoring and inspection capacity and to effectively combat current or future dangers at sea such as terrorism, piracy, IUU fishing, trafficking or even marine pollution;

13.  Urges the Commission to continue its efforts to promote the exchange of information in order to integrate maritime surveillance, in particular information aimed at harmonising coastguard services at European level;

14.  Believes that the EU's objectives in the fight against IUU fishing must be backed up by the necessary resources, above all financial, to ensure their promotion, with Member States being allocated sufficient resources to allow them to implement the regulations in force; stresses, equally, that any future adoption of new methods (e.g. electronic tracking systems, etc.) must ensure the availability at the level of the EU budget of the financial resources needed for their implementation;

15.  Calls on the Commission to publish annual assessments of the performance of each Member State in implementing the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) that identify possible weak points needing improvement, and to use all possible means, including identifying Member States when they fail in their responsibilities, to ensure their full compliance, in order to create a reliable and transparent control regime;

16.  Welcomes the Commission's decision to introduce a point-based fishing licence, an additional tool the Member States will be able to use to identify irregularities at each stage of the market chain and to impose strict penalties in case of infringement;

17.  Considers that, given the high mobility of fish stocks, fishing fleets and the capital underlying the fleets, as well as the global nature of markets for fish, IUU fishing can only be effectively fought by international cooperation, both bilaterally and multilaterally, and extensive, accurate and timely information exchange regarding fishing vessels, their activities and catches and other relevant matters;

18.  Calls on the EU to strongly insist that third countries effectively combat IUU fishing, including by promoting the signing, ratification and implementation of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the FAO Compliance Agreement and the UN Law of the Sea as well as the various catch documentation schemes already adopted by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) in the context of trade agreements, Fisheries Partnership Agreements and the EU's development policy;

19.  Stresses the need to ensure that all third countries with which the EU has signed a Fisheries Partnership Agreement apply the rules of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on core labour rights, particularly those concerning social dumping caused by IUU fishing;

20.  Emphasises that past limitations in monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities have been largely overcome by technological advances, including developments in space and satellite technologies, and that the key to combating IUU fishing today lies primarily with governments finding the political will to act effectively and responsibly;

21.  Calls on Member States to pursue and prosecute vessels, owners, firms, companies or individuals involved in IUU fishing-related activities, including the mixing of IUU catches with legal catches, as they would other perpetrators of environmental or economic crime, with severe sanctions upon conviction including, where appropriate for serious or repeat offences, the permanent withdrawal of licences and denial of access to port facilities;

22.  Deplores the fact that EU subsidies have been distributed to vessels that had previously been caught fishing illegally;

23.  Calls on the Commission to amend the requirements for all kinds of financial assistance so as to apply financial sanctions and the denial of funding opportunities to the owners of vessels proven to have fished illegally;

24.  Urges the Commission to withhold aid from the European Fisheries Fund to all those vessels involved in IUU activities;

25.  Emphasises the need to ensure greater responsibility and accountability on the part of the fishing industry in order to achieve the sustainable use of marine resources; considers that improving transparency in all aspects of the fishing industry and its activities, including agreeing on international criteria to establish the real beneficial owners of vessels and the fishing rights they hold, and conditions for their publication, as well as the monitoring of fishing vessels in international waters, is crucial;

26.  Believes that the European Union should set an example by adopting and promoting a policy of transparency in decision-making in fisheries management in international bodies and in third countries with which the EU has fisheries relations;

27.  Takes the view that fishing that respects the measures adopted at international, regional and national level and that is based on the responsible and sustainable use of resources favours economic growth and job creation both within the EU and in developing countries, whereas illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has dramatic economic, social and environmental repercussions, and its consequences are especially damaging to developing countries in that it impedes the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically MDGs 1, 7 and 8;

28.  Underlines the cross-border nature of fishing activities and the need, in order to combat IUU fishing, to cooperate at both bilateral and multilateral level so that measures geared to combating IUU fishing are applied by everyone in a transparent, non-discriminatory and equitable manner, whilst taking account of the financial, technical and human capacities of developing countries, in particular those of small island states;

29.  Calls on the Commission to ensure consistency among its policies so that development policy that combats poverty is an integral part of the EU's policy to combat IUU fishing, alongside the environmental and commercial concerns;

30.  Stresses the direct link between IUU fishing and a state's level of governance and calls for all external aid measures to be accompanied by a firm political resolve on the part of the beneficiary state to ban IUU fishing in its waters, and more generally to improve governance in the fisheries sector;

31.  Encourages the Commission and the Member States to expand their programmes of financial, technological and technical support, including Official Development Aid and Fisheries Partnership Agreements, for monitoring, control and surveillance programmes in the waters of developing countries, giving priority to regional programmes rather than bilateral ones; further encourages greater coordination among all donors, European and others, in funding such programmes;

32.  Considers, furthermore, that the EU should make active use of cooperation in Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs) in order to combat IUU fishing more effectively;

33.  Calls on the Commission to increase the financial envelope for the fisheries sector in the agreements that it signs with developing countries as far as is necessary, so that these countries can consolidate their institutional, human and technical capacities to combat IUU fishing and thereby improve their compliance with the measures adopted by world and regional fisheries management organisations and with European legislation;

34.  Stresses the need to involve civil society and to hand responsibility to fisheries sector undertakings so that they will ensure that legal fishing methods are complied with and cooperate with the authorities in combating IUU fishing, within the framework of the social and environmental responsibility of undertakings;

35.  Asks the Commission to examine the possibility of adding the FAO Port State Measures Agreement, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the FAO Compliance Agreement to the list of instruments to be implemented for countries to be eligible for the Generalised System of Preferences plus, which is currently being revised; calls for the withdrawal of export licences for all countries which market products obtained by IUU fishing; considers that the EU should work with such countries in order to ban the marketing of these products;

36.  Recalls that the issue of IUU fishing is inseparable from that of Economic Partnership Agreements in the context of trade which is subject to the rules of the WTO; stresses the problem of derogation from the rules of origin for some processed fishery products and in particular the case of Papua New Guinea, which prevents the traceability of such products and opens the way for IUU fishing;

37.  Considers that the EU should pursue the following objectives in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) to which it belongs:

   establishment, for all fisheries under the remit of the RFMOs, of registers of fishing vessels, including support vessels, that are authorised to fish, as well as lists of vessels that are identified as IUU (black lists), to be updated frequently, published widely and coordinated among RFMOs;
   strengthening of RFMOs' Compliance Committees to examine the performance of Contracting Parties and, where necessary, impose effective sanctions;
   extension of the list of specified measures to be taken by Contracting Parties (CPCs) as flag, coastal, port and market States, and States of beneficial ownership, within individual RFMOs;
   establishment of appropriate at-sea inspections and observer programmes;
   bans on transhipments at sea;
   development of catch documentation schemes, beginning with the major species in each RFMO;
   compulsory use of electronic tools including VMS, electronic logbooks and other tracking devices where relevant;
   compulsory and regular evaluations of the performance of individual RFMOs with a requirement that the recommendations be acted upon;
   declaration of financial interests with respect to fisheries for heads of delegations to RFMOs where they could lead to a conflict of interest;

38.  Calls for an urgent expansion of the network of RFMOs to cover all high seas fisheries and areas, either by establishing new RFMOs or by expanding the mandate of existing ones; believes that vastly enhanced cooperation among RFMOs, in terms of information exchange, sanctions against vessels and CPCs, is necessary given the global nature of IUU fishing;

39.  Believes that the right to fish on the high seas must, to the extent possible under international law, be made conditional upon a State's adherence to the relevant international bodies and full implementation of all management measures that they adopt;

40.  Notes that the FAO is the main source for scientific expertise and recommendations when examining global fisheries and aquaculture issues due to fisheries development and management being better amalgamated with the preservation of biodiversity and protection of the environment;

41.  Fully supports the current FAO initiative to develop a Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels, which should be compulsory and include vessels above 10 GT as soon as possible;

42.  Encourages the rapid development of a system for the evaluation of flag State performance currently underway at the FAO as a means of putting pressure on States that do not meet their international legal obligations; urges that some effective mechanism be found for sanctioning States that do not ensure that vessels flying their flag do not support or engage in IUU fishing and abide by all relevant legislation; calls on Member States to enforce fairly and transparently the market instruments to stop illegal fishing, without discriminating against other countries; supports the FAO's decision to set up international consultations on the performance of flag States in regard to their obligations under international law;

43.  Calls for the urgent adoption of measures to put an end to the use of ‘flags of convenience’, a practice which enables fishing vessels to operate illegally, with impunity, at a great cost to the marine ecosystem, fish stocks, coastal communities, food security, particularly in developing countries, and the legitimate, law-abiding fishing industry;

44.  Emphasises the need to ensure that EU interests are not involved in such forms of fishing piracy and therefore calls on Member States to ensure that their nationals do not support or engage in IUU fishing;

45.  Supports the efforts of the Commission to establish a public register listing the identities of ship owners that have been proven to have participated in IUU fishing; believes that the register should be in line with the one managed by the Community Fisheries Control Agency in Vigo;

46.  Believes that independent evaluations of both flag States' and RFMOs' performance should be carried out by an organisation integrated into the United Nations system without further delay;

47.  Recognises the lack of international cooperation in management of the negative impacts of human activities other than fishing that affect the marine environment and calls upon the Commission to advocate the creation of a global body to fill this void, possibly under the auspices of the UN;

48.  Emphasises that the concept of market State responsibility must be more fully developed as a means of closing down the markets for the products of IUU fish; believes that the EU must urgently discuss with other major market States, including but not limited to the US, Japan and China, how to cooperate among themselves and, as rapidly as possible, to develop international legal instruments that could halt, prosecute and punish trade in IUU fish, in line with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and within the framework of the United Nations system;

49.  Underlines that maintaining and developing the European fisheries sector depends in part on strict IUU monitoring of fishery products traded on European and global markets; stresses the importance of this sector for regional planning, food safety and safeguarding jobs and resources in Community waters;

50.  Takes the view that the European Union already has instruments with which to discourage illegal fishing and is convinced that, since it is one of the largest markets for fish in the world, the dissuasive effect would have undoubted practical consequences if it uses these instruments properly; calls, therefore, for European Union export certificates not to be granted to or to be withdrawn from those states or contracting parties which do not cooperate with RFMOs in establishing instruments such as catch documentation systems or port state measures;

51.  Stresses that one of the best weapons in the fight against IUU fishing is the trade weapon; once again deplores, therefore, the lack of coordination between DG MARE and DG TRADE, since whilst the former is setting itself more and more objectives in order to combat IUU fishing, the latter's exclusive aim appears to be to make Community markets more and more open to imports, whatever their origin and whatever control guarantees are in place, granting tariff preferences and rules of origin derogations that are serving only to hand European markets over to fleets and countries that have been identified as at least tolerating IUU fishing;

52.  Considers in this context that the market should increasingly be held to account for its actions, and particularly importers, since the market is perhaps the most significant cause of IUU fishing;

53.  Stresses the importance of the consumer's right to always be certain that the product purchased has been legally fished;

54.  Calls on both the Commission and the Member States to improve their information to consumers on various labelling schemes, e.g. the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) scheme, which create transparency and provide consumers with a guarantee that they are purchasing sustainable, legally landed fish;

55.  Expresses its full support for the new guidelines adopted at the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meeting in February 2011, with the objective of harmonising the system of fisheries product labelling in order to fight illegal fishing; believes that the characteristics of labelling should include clear indications concerning the commercial and scientific designation of the fish concerned, the type of fishery and, above all, the zone of origin;

56.  Encourages the Commission to pursue the development of a global catch documentation scheme;

57.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to support the development and utilisation of techniques to ensure full, effective traceability of fish products throughout the supply chain, including satellite tracking of fishing and support vessels and electronic tags to track fish, as well as the establishment of global fish DNA and other genetic databases to identify the fish products and their geographical origin as described in the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) report ‘Deterring Illegal Activities in the Fisheries Sector – Genetics, Genomics, Chemistry and Forensics to Fight IUU Fishing and in Support of Fish Product Traceability’;

58.  Calls on the Commission and Council to increase the resources allocated to the fight against corruption and organised crime at all levels;

59.  Welcomes the recent report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on the role of transnational organised crime in the fishing industry and its explanation of how organised criminal groups are extending their influence in the fishing industry, including in both upstream (vessel and crew supply, refuelling, etc.) and downstream (marketing, shipping) activities;

60.  Is alarmed at the use of such criminal activities as human exploitation and trafficking, money laundering, corruption, handling of stolen goods, tax evasion and customs fraud by those engaged in IUU fishing, which should be viewed as a form of organised transnational crime; emphasises the need for a more comprehensive and integrated approach to combating IUU fishing, including controls on trade and imports;

61.  Fully endorses the recommendations of the UNODC report, including expanding international cooperation in investigating criminal activities at sea, improving transparency of fishing vessel ownership and activities and discouraging both the sale and the operation of fishing vessels by companies with untraceable beneficial owners;

62.  Notes that the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime is one of the most widely ratified treaties, which obliges its Contracting Parties to cooperate with each other, in terms of investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings, in transnational organised crime cases, thus creating important synergies in combating IUU fishing;

63.  Believes that IUU fishing should be made one of the prioritised areas for Interpol, giving resources and investigative powers to the organisation to monitor and combat transnational criminal aspects of IUU fishing;

64.  Requests the Commission to examine the US Lacey Act and to consider whether certain of its elements might be useful in the European context, particularly the responsibility it imposes on retailers for the legality of fish;

65.  Calls upon the Commission to include the above principles, where relevant, in the provisions of its bilateral fisheries agreements;

66.  Insists that the EU propose that the issue of international oceans governance be made a priority at the next World Summit on Sustainable Development in Brazil in 2012, on the 30th anniversary of the UN Law of the Seas;

67.  Points out that the fight against illegal fishing at world level is vital for global sustainable development and must therefore represent an essential and explicit part of Fisheries Partnership Agreements, trade policy commitments, development cooperation policy objectives and the European Union's foreign policy priorities;

68.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the national parliaments of the Member States, the secretariats of the RFMOs to which the EU is a Contracting Party and the Committee on Fisheries of the FAO.

(1) OJ C 287 E, 29.11.2007, p. 502.
(2) OJ L 286, 29.10.2008, p. 1.
(3) OJ L286, 29.10.2008, p. 33.
(4) OJ L 343, 22.12.2009, p. 1.

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