Full text 
Procedure : 2017/2129(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0156/2018

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 28/05/2018 - 24
CRE 28/05/2018 - 24

Votes :

PV 30/05/2018 - 13.7
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


Texts adopted
PDF 162kWORD 56k
Wednesday, 30 May 2018 - Strasbourg
Conformity of fisheries products with access criteria to the EU market

European Parliament resolution of 30 May 2018 on the implementation of control measures for establishing the conformity of fisheries products with access criteria to the EU market (2017/2129(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC(1),

–  having regard to the common fisheries policy (CFP) control regime, comprising Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009(2) and (EC) No 1005/2008(3), and Regulation (EU) 2017/2403 of the European Parliament and of the Council(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1184/2006 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 104/2000(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1026/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on certain measures for the purpose of the conservation of fish stocks in relation to countries allowing non-sustainable fishing(7),

–  having regard to European Court of Auditors (ECA) Special Report No 19/2017 of December 2017 entitled ‘Import procedures: shortcomings in the legal framework and an ineffective implementation impact the financial interests of the EU’,

–  having regard to its resolution of 27 April 2017 on the management of the fishing fleets in the Outermost Regions(8),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure, as well as Article 1(1)(e) of, and Annex 3 to, the decision of the Conference of Presidents of 12 December 2002 on the procedure for granting authorisation to draw up own-initiative reports,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries (A8-0156/2018),

A.  whereas the EU is the world’s largest market for fisheries and aquaculture products, absorbing 24 % of total global imports in 2016, and is dependent on imports for over 60 % of its consumption of such products;

B.  whereas in its resolution of 8 July 2010 on the arrangements for importing fishery and aquaculture products into the EU(9), Parliament emphasised that one of the key aims of EU policy on fishery and aquaculture imports must be to ensure that imported products meet the same requirements that apply to EU production in every respect, and that EU efforts to make fishing sustainable were incompatible with importing products from countries that fish with no concern for sustainability;

C.  whereas the Commission communication of 14 October 2015 entitled ‘Trade for all: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’ (COM(2015)0497) commits the EU to a more responsible trade policy as an instrument for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals;

D.  whereas verifying that fish from EU producers meets EU sanitary standards is the responsibility of Member States, while for imported fish the Commission authorises third countries to identify establishments allowed to export fish products to the EU, provided that they can guarantee equivalent standards;

E.  whereas the outermost regions of the EU, in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, neighbour third countries whose fishing, production and marketing conditions do not always meet European standards, resulting in unfair trade vis-à-vis local production;

F.  whereas there are numerous international instruments concerning fishers which should be ratified and implemented, such as International Labour Organisation Convention No 188 on work in fishing (ILO C188), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Cape Town Agreement of 2012 and the IMO International Convention on Standards in Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F);

G.  whereas the conclusions of Scientific Opinion No 3/2017 of 29 November 2017 entitled ‘Food from the Oceans’ recommend the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals into all Union policies and the application of the same approach in other international arenas and in supporting other regions of the world, so as to find a balance between economic and ecological objectives that involve the production of food and the marine environment;

1.  Notes that in order to place fishery and aquaculture products on the market, EU operators must comply with a wide range of regulations and meet strict criteria, including the rules of the CFP and sanitary, labour, vessel safety and environmental standards, all of which are underpinned by regimes to ensure compliance; is convinced that these combine to create high standards concerning the quality and sustainability of the product that EU consumers have legitimately come to expect;

2.  Considers that compliance of fisheries and aquaculture products from third countries with EU standards relating to environmental and social sustainability would promote sustainability in those third countries and help create fairer competition between EU products and products from third countries;

3.  Is concerned that imports of such products are subject to fewer controls, the primary controls being sanitary standards and the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU) Regulation(10), the latter having been designed solely to ensure that the product was caught in compliance with the applicable rules;

4.  Stresses that in order to ensure equitable treatment of imported and European fishery and aquaculture products, which should be a key aim of EU fisheries policy, the EU should require all imported products to comply with EU conservation and management standards, as well as the hygiene requirements imposed by EU legislation; notes that this would help to create fairer competition and raise standards for the exploitation of marine resources in third countries;

5.  Considers that EU efforts to conserve fish stocks and make fishing sustainable, pursued through the CFP, are incompatible with importing fishery and aquaculture products from countries that are stepping up their fishing efforts without concern for sustainability and are only interested in short-term profitability;

6.  Expresses concern that different rules for placing fish on the market create a discriminatory market that adversely affects EU fishers and fish farmers, for which reason controls on fishery and aquaculture products should be increased and improved;

7.  Considers that the application of the Control Regulation(11) should be enhanced in all Member States, so that it is applied in a homogeneous and harmonised manner at all stages of the supply chain, including retail and restaurant services, and to both EU and imported products; notes that this also applies to labelling provisions;

Sanitary standards

8.  Is concerned that the system imposed by the Union and employed by the competent third-country authorities for the verification of sanitary criteria for fishery products exported to the EU does not provide sufficient guarantees that these criteria are always respected;

9.  Calls on the Commission to provide more training, technical assistance and facilities for institutional capacity building to help developing countries comply with EU rules; encourages initiatives such as the Better Training for Safer Food programme, run by the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), which provides training sessions for official control staff from developing countries on EU standards for fishery and aquaculture products;

10.  Emphasises the importance of rigorously applying all aspects of EU law related to health standards and inspections (including food safety, traceability and prevention), which are crucial aspects for consumer protection, to fishery and aquaculture imports, including feedstuffs and feed materials; urges the Commission, in this respect, to enhance its programme of third country inspections by fine-tuning Food and Veterinary Office missions, primarily by increasing the number of establishments inspected on each mission, in order to obtain results that better reflect the real situation in third countries;

11.  Notes that even the audits carried out by DG SANTE show that some third countries are falling far short of ensuring that products meet the necessary health standards, at least as concerns fishing and factory vessels and reefers, which hampers the sanitary controls carried out at EU border inspection posts to check that the legal sanitary requirements are met;

12.  Is alarmed by observations that non-EU fishing vessels operating off West Africa experience difficulties in ensuring the traceability of products and respect for sanitary standards; believes that the veracity of certificates issued by third countries for vessels and establishments authorised to export to the EU cannot be fully relied upon;

13.  Believes that allowing third countries to delegate to other selected third countries the right to award such certificates, even to a coastal State, is contrary to the concept of flag State responsibility which underpins the CFP, including the IUU Regulation, in particular the responsibilities of the flag State that validates the catch certificate; considers that the Commission should discontinue the practice of allowing third countries to delegate such authority to other countries;

14.  Believes, in addition, that a sanitary inspection of fishing vessels should be carried out by the competent authorities at least once per year;

Labour rights

15.  Contrasts the commendable record of the Member States in ratifying labour conventions relating to seafarers with their exceedingly poor record in ratifying conventions relating to fishers, and urges them to ratify the relevant instruments promptly, including ILO C188, the Cape Town Agreement and the STCW-F;

16.  Congratulates the social partners on their success in the use of Article 155 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) to negotiate Council Directive (EU) 2017/159(12), which partially implements ILO C188, while regretting that this does not cover self-employed fishers; urges the Commission to complete the process by putting forward a proposal for a complementary directive that includes enforcement provisions, as it has done for shipping;

17.  Urges the Commission, in this connection, to initiate procedures for the use of Article 155 TFEU with respect to the STCW-F in order to improve safety at sea in fishing, which is widely recognised to be among the most dangerous professions in the world;

18.  Supports the continuing efforts to improve EU fisheries policy in order to make it more environmentally sustainable, ensuring the long-term survival of coastal communities and a nutritious source of food; contrasts this with the increasing openness of the EU market to fishery products from third countries whose management regimes are not as strict; considers this to constitute a lack of coherence between fisheries policy and trade policy;

Trade policy

19.  Regrets that conflicting signals are sometimes sent by the Commission to third countries, such as in negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) with or otherwise expanding access to the EU market to countries that have been pre-identified under the IUU Regulation or the Non-Sustainable Fishing Regulation(13);

20.  Calls on the Commission to ensure close coordination between the Union’s trade and fisheries policies, including in the negotiation of trade agreements involving matters related to fisheries; considers it essential to analyse the economic and social impact of FTAs on EU fishery products, institute appropriate safeguarding measures where necessary and treat certain fishery products as sensitive;

21.  Considers that the EU, as the world’s largest importer of fishery products, shares political responsibility with other major fish-importing countries for ensuring that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade rules are in line with the highest possible global standards of fisheries management and conservation; calls, to this end, on the Commission to ensure that fair, transparent and sustainable trade in fish is strengthened in the EU’s bilateral and multilateral trade agreements;

22.  Insists that FTAs and other multilateral agreements with trade provisions negotiated by the Commission include reinforced chapters on sustainable development that address specific fishery concerns and that:

   explicitly reinforce the requirements of the IUU Regulation and oblige the third country to initiate a procedure to prevent IUU fish from entering its market, in order to keep them from arriving in the EU indirectly;
   require the third country to ratify and implement effectively key international fishery instruments, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Port State Measures Agreement and the FAO Compliance Agreement, and to adhere to the standards of the relevant regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs);

23.  Calls for serious consideration to be given to the interests of the outermost regions when entering into sustainable fisheries partnership agreements or trade agreements with third countries, providing, if necessary, for the exclusion of sensitive products;

24.  Calls on the Commission, when drafting a post-Brexit agreement, to make the UK’s access to the EU market for fishery and aquaculture products dependent on EU vessels’ access to British waters and on the application of the CFP;

25.  Calls on the Commission to propose the amendment of the GSP Regulation(14) to include important fishery instruments, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the FAO Compliance Agreement and the FAO Port State Measures Agreement, among those that must be ratified and applied, and provisions to allow the suspension of GSP+ status in cases where the provisions of these instruments are not applied;

26.  Stresses that in order to rectify the shortcomings in the implementation of trade and sustainable development chapters in FTAs and to give force to these provisions, they should incorporate a binding dispute settlement mechanism (to include government-to-government consultations, a panel procedure, public access to documents and the consultation of civil society), complete with the possibility of applying sanctions in case of non-compliance with their international commitments;

27.  Expresses alarm at the weaknesses and loopholes in customs controls described in ECA Special Report No 19/2017 and urges the Commission and Member States to implement the recommendations contained therein as rapidly as possible;

28.  Notes that in addition to general non-financial disclosure obligations for large companies, additional requirements for increased due diligence responsibilities have been imposed on actors of all sizes (including SMEs) in two problematic sectors – timber and conflict minerals – to be applied all along the custody chain; considers that fishery products would benefit from similar obligations and urges the Commission to examine the feasibility of introducing due diligence requirements for these products;

Marketing standards

29.  Notes that while the provisions of Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013 on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products apply to all fishery and aquaculture products, those on labelling for consumers only apply to a relatively small group of products, excluding prepared, preserved or processed products; considers that consumer information should be improved for these products, too, with the inclusion of additional compulsory information on their labels; considers that the labelling of these products must be improved, in order to inform consumers and ensure that fishery and aquaculture products are traceable;

30.  Calls on the Commission to promote information campaigns on the sustainability efforts of EU fishers and fish farmers, emphasising the high qualitative and environmental standards required by EU legislation compared with those of third countries;

31.  Considers that strict compliance with the common fisheries policy and other EU legislation guarantees observance of high standards in the environmental, hygienic-sanitary and social fields by the EU fleet, and therefore urges the Commission to promptly examine the possibility of creating a label to identify the EU’s fishery products;

32.  Expresses its conviction that European consumers would often make different choices if they were better informed about the true nature of products on sale, their geographical origins, their quality and the conditions under which they have been produced or caught;

33.  Considers that compulsory information on fishery product labels should also include the flag State of the vessel that caught the product;

34.  Welcomes the Commission’s recent launch of an evaluation of marketing standards first adopted decades ago in order to determine what standards should be applied in the light of today’s marketing practices and the technologies available for product traceability;

Control regime

35.  Considers that the three regulations comprising the control regime constitute a balanced package and have led to significant improvements in fisheries management in the EU;

36.  Commends the Commission for the way in which it has enforced the IUU Regulation with respect to third countries, demonstrating that the EU can have a tremendous influence on global fisheries in its role as a responsible market State; urges the Commission to continue to pressure other market States to implement measures to prevent IUU-caught fish from entering their markets;

37.  Highlights the report recently published by civil society which analyses the flow of seafood imports into EU countries as from 2010, the year in which the IUU Regulation entered into force, and which shows how shortcomings in controls on imports from third countries to Member States and rules that are not uniform can enable non-compliant products to enter the EU market; calls, therefore, on the Member States and transit and destination countries to step up their coordination in order to ensure that catch certificates issued for fish imports are examined more carefully; considers it vital to adopt a harmonised and coordinated European computerised system that can facilitate fish import controls in the Member States;

38.  Believes that the Commission and some Member States have failed to implement strictly and enforce all three regulations, as recognised in documents produced by the Commission, the ECA and independent observers;

39.  Believes that in addition to applying the IUU Regulation, it is necessary to exercise stricter downstream controls over the marketing of such fish, notably by means of more rigorous audits of the Member States and of enterprises suspected of supplying products originating in illegal fishing;

40.  Asks the Commission to use all the tools available to it to ensure that all countries exporting fishery and aquaculture products to the EU apply rigorous policies to conserve stocks; encourages it to cooperate with these countries in all appropriate forums and in RFMOs in particular;

41.  Observes that failures in implementation have occurred in many aspects and include:

   uneven levels of sanctions and failure to implement the points system in different Member States;
   sanctions that are not always sufficiently dissuasive, effective or proportionate to prevent the repetition of infringements;
   unsatisfactory collection and exchange of data by and among Member States owing in particular to the lack of a common and compatible database;
   poor traceability of fish, including as it crosses national borders;
   poor control of weighing practices;
   significant differences in verification of imports and point of entry, including catch certificates;
   lack of a clear and uniform definition of serious infringements across the Member States;

42.  Stresses the need to ensure that when an imported product is rejected in a port in one Member State it cannot enter the EU market through another port in another Member State;

43.  Agrees that certain provisions of the control regime regulations are open to interpretation and have hindered uniform implementation, but considers that with sufficient openness and political will, the Commission and the Member States could intensify their efforts to ensure a more harmonised implementation of existing legislation, such as through the use of guidelines and interpretations;

44.  Notes that this was the intention behind the Expert Group on Compliance with the obligations under the European Union fisheries control system, set up as part of the reform of the CFP as a venue for frank discussion in a non-judgmental manner on shortcomings among the players, and regrets that this is not how the group has developed so far;

45.  Considers that much more needs to be done to encourage full implementation of the control regime, including appropriate follow-up on infringements detected, better reporting by the Member States on actions taken and exchange of information among the Member States and with the Commission;

46.  Urges the Commission to use the full set of instruments at its disposal to encourage the Member States to implement the provisions of the control regime fully, including, where appropriate, by withholding funds from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund;

47.  Reiterates the conclusion drawn in its resolution of 25 October 2016 on how to make fisheries controls in Europe uniform(15) that any revision of the Control Regulation or the IUU Regulation must be targeted and focused to deal only with those aspects that inhibit effective and even controls in every Member State of the Union;

48.  Calls for the powers of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) to be extended to cover checks on vessels covered by fisheries agreements, including on the basis of cooperation with the competent authorities of the signatory state, and for the EFCA to be given the resources it needs to do so;

49.  Strongly regrets the Commission’s decision to launch a major revision of the entire control regime without proper public consultations on either the implementation of the IUU Regulation, the mandate of the EFCA or the revision of the entire package, as required by the Better Regulation Guidelines; considers that a formal public consultation on all these elements, before putting forward a proposal for a revision, would enable all stakeholders to have sufficient input on the revision of this most critical pillar of the CFP;

50.  Insists strongly that revision must not lead to any weakening of the current measures, but rather should improve and strengthen the level playing field in fisheries controls, as the only possible way to guarantee the ‘common’ dimension of the common fisheries policy;

51.  Insists that the revised control regime must include, among its basic principles:

   EU-wide standards and norms concerning inspections at sea, in port and all along the custody chain;
   full traceability of fish as it moves along the custody chain, from the vessel to the final point of sale;
   complete data on catches by all operators, including vessels under 10 metres and recreational fishers;
   common levels of sanctions in all Member States;
   a common definition of what constitutes an infraction;
   a point system applied by all Member States in an equivalent manner;
   sanctions that are sufficiently dissuasive, effective and proportionate;
   a system accessible to the Commission and all Member States for the exchange of all information concerning infractions observed and legal and judicial follow-up;
   full adoption of improvements in available technologies and the ability to adopt future technologies as they evolve without the need for a legislative amendment;
   unambiguous establishment of Commission and Member State responsibilities and, where applicable, regions within the Member States;
   no regionalisation of the Control Regulation;

52.  Calls on the Commission to submit its proposal to amend the Control Regulation as soon as possible;

53.  Insists that the provisions and principles of the IUU Regulation must not be altered or weakened in any way, considering the enormous success of this regulation and its impact on fisheries around the world;

54.  Insists that the inclusion of third countries in the IUU Regulation processes of pre-identification, identification and listing must be without political interference of any kind and that the de-listing must be based strictly on the full achievement by the country concerned of the improvements considered necessary by the Commission;

55.  Considers that the role of the EFCA should be reinforced to enable its increased involvement in the application of the Control and IUU Regulations, including the verification and cross-checking of data along the chain of custody, the planning and coordination of inspections by the Commission and Member States, and the verification of catch certificates;

o   o

56.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 22.
(2) 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, amending Regulations (EC) No 847/96, (EC) No 2371/2002, (EC) No 811/2004, (EC) No 768/2005, (EC) No 2115/2005, (EC) No 2166/2005, (EC) No 388/2006, (EC) No 509/2007, (EC) No 676/2007, (EC) No 1098/2007, (EC) No 1300/2008, (EC) No 1342/2008 and repealing Regulations (EEC) No 2847/93, (EC) No 1627/94 and (EC) No 1966/2006 (OJ L 343, 22.12.2009, p. 1).
(3) Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, amending Regulations (EEC) No 2847/93, (EC) No 1936/2001 and (EC) No 601/2004 and repealing Regulations (EC) No 1093/94 and (EC) No 1447/1999 (OJ L 286, 29.10.2008, p. 1).
(4) Regulation (EU) 2017/2403 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2017 on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets, and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1006/2008 (OJ L 347, 28.12.2017, p. 81).
(5) OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 1.
(6) OJ L 139, 30.4.2004, p. 206.
(7) OJ L 316, 14.11.2012, p. 34.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0195.
(9) OJ C 351 E, 2.12.2011, p. 119.
(10) Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008.
(11) Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009.
(12) OJ L 25, 31.1.2017, p. 12.
(13) Regulation (EU) No 1026/2012.
(14) Regulation (EU) No 978/2012 (OJ L 303, 31.10.2012, p. 1).
(15) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0407.

Last updated: 15 January 2020Legal notice - Privacy policy