Revision of the fisheries control system

In “A European Green Deal”

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On 30 May 2018, the European Commission proposed the revision of the fisheries control system, aimed at modernising and simplifying the rules for monitoring fisheries activities and ensuring compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The proposal also intends to bring to date a control system conceived before the 2013 CFP reform. The revision centres on the amendment of the Control Regulation 1224/2009. The main changes concern:

  • The conditions for access to waters: the proposal requires that all fishing vessels have a tracking system, which can use either a satellite connection, as is now the case, or a land-based mobile network.
  • The use of fishing opportunities: for all fishing vessels, an electronic logbook would be required, containing information on all catches. All fishing vessels should complete a landing declaration (however, a transhipment declaration is required only for vessels over 10 metres). All landing and transhipment declarations should be recorded and submitted electronically.
  • Fleet capacity: the proposal simplifies the verification of the engine power of fishing vessels and introduces the verification of the tonnage. It also includes a new requirement for continuous monitoring of the engine power of certain vessels using active gear, via a permanently installed device.
  • Recreational fisheries: Member States should set up a system to control recreational fishers through registration or licencing, and should collect data on their catches. Where EU conservation measures are applicable to recreational fisheries, electronic catch declarations must be provided.
  • Marketing of fishery products: to improve traceability, a specific lot of fishery products is linked to a particular landing by a fishing vessel (identified by the unique fishing trip number). Operators at all stages of production, processing and distribution should ensure that information on each lot is recorded and transmitted electronically along the supply chain. Operators dealing with fishery products imported into the EU must also provide such information. The proposal establishes a new system for weighing fish at landing. The sales notes, the take-over declarations and the transport documents should be recorded and submitted electronically.
  • Surveillance: various aspects of the inspection process are clarified, and digital inspection reports are required.
  • Sanctions: the accent is on administrative measures. The proposal introduces a wide-ranging common list of activities defined as serious infringements. An additional list contains activities that could constitute serious infringements depending on their gravity, which is to be determined by national authorities. The proposal also identifies a series of immediate enforcement measures to be taken in case of serious infringements, mainly concerning cessation of fishing and seizure of catches. It introduces mandatory administrative sanctions for serious infringements and determines the level of the fines to be imposed.
  • Landing obligation: the proposal defines measures for controlling its implementation. The main tool concerns close-circuit television (CCTV) systems incorporating data storage. Continuously-recording CCTV systems should be installed on a minimum percentage of vessels fishing for species subject to the landing obligation.
  • Marine litter: the proposal reinforces the rules for dealing with lost fishing gear. All fishing vessels should report lost gear via the electronic logbooks, and carry on board the necessary equipment for retrieval.

In addition to the Control Regulation, the proposal revises the mandate of European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) to align its objective with the reformed CFP and the IUU Regulation 1005/2008, to replace the current paper-based catch certification scheme with a digital information management system named CATCH.

The PECH committee considered the proposal on the basis of the draft report put forward by the rapporteur Isabelle Thomas (S&D, France) on 18 December 2018. However, in March 2019 the Committee decided that it was not possible to adopt its report before the end of the legislature, and the file has been carried over under the current parliamentary term.

The new rapporteur of the PECH Committee, Clara Aguilera (S&D, Spain) published her draft report on 19 February 2020. The ENVI Committee also provided an opinion (rapporteur Pascal Canfin (Renew, FR)).

The PECH report, approved on 5 February 2021, was tabled for Parliament’s plenary, which adopted its amendments on 11 March 2021, by 401 votes to 247 and 47 abstentions. Parliament supported the major aspects of the proposal, such as tracking of all fishing vessels, electronic reporting of all catches, improving traceability of fishery products and harmonising sanctions for infringements of fisheries rules across the EU. In addition, Parliament introduced a simplified electronic logbook for small vessels under 12 metres, and required the creation of a ‘Union register’ of infringements centralising Member States information, as well as the use of uniform formats for a wide range of control documents throughout the EU.

As regards the use of CCTV technology, Parliament departed from the position of the PECH committee (which only allowed it on a voluntary basis), and adopted an amendment making it mandatory for a minimum percentage of fishing vessels over 12 metres considered at a high risk of non-compliance with the landing obligation. In contrast, it endorsed the PECH report on increasing the margin of tolerance in logbook estimates (from 10 % to 20 % for species from small pelagic and mixed fisheries, and to 25 % for tuna species) and in transhipment declarations (from 10 % to 15 %). It also limited the continuous engine-power monitoring to vessels exceeding 221 kilowatts that operate under fishing effort regimes.

On 28 June 2021, Council adopted its general approach on a compromise text. Trilogue negotiations, launched in September 2021, are ongoing.


Further reading

Author: Irina Popescu, Members' Research Service,

As of 15/12/2022.