The new regulation which would clarify the authorisation procedure of EU vessels fishing outside the EU and extend the licensing system to include also private agreements between EU companies and third countries, was backed by the plenary on Thursday. Parliament will now enter into negotiations with the Council in order to reach an early first-reading agreement.
“We are about to raise standards in the management of the EU external fishing fleet. This regulation is the most fundamental one in the EU control system as it decides who can fish outside the EU waters. We have voted a very ambitious Parliament position in the committee vote”, said the rapporteur Linnéa ENGSTRÖM (Greens/EFA, SV) prior to the vote. The mandate to open negotiations with the Council was approved by 586 votes, to 56 with 6 abstentions.
An EU vessel fishing would need to obtain an authorisation by its flag member state to fish outside EU waters. This authorisation would be requested for all fishing vessels with fishing activities in the framework of a Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) or under a direct authorisation issued by a third country through a private agreement, and also with fishing activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the auspices of a regional fisheries management organisation (RFMO) or on the high seas outside such arrangements.
The authorisation would be based on a set of common eligibility criteria which the flag member state needs to check thoroughly and monitor at least once a year. This set of criteria would include:
- administrative information on the vessel and the master,
- a unique vessel identification number by International Maritime Organisation (IMO) where this is required by Union legislation
- a valid fishing license and
- proof that the vessel is not included in an illegal fishing (IUU) vessel list adopted by a regional fisheries management organisation and/or by the Union
Plenary approved an amendment on an extra criteria stating that “the master of the fishing vessel, as well as the fishing vessel concerned, have not been subject to a sanction for a serious infringement during the 12 months prior to the application for the fishing authorisation.”
An EU electronic fishing authorisation register would be set up which would be accessible to the public. It would contain data on the IMO number, the details of the company and beneficial owner and the type of authorisation and fishing opportunities.
Vessels that during the two years prior to the application for an authorisation have left the Union register and been reflagged in a third country and subsequently returned to the EU register would only receive the authorisation by the flag state if the state has verified the vessel did not engage in IUU activities nor it operated in a non-cooperating country or a third country identified as allowing non-sustainable fishing.
The proposed regulation would replace the current 'Fishing Authorisations Regulation' 1006/2008, and would apply to all EU vessels fishing outside EU waters, and to third-country vessels fishing in EU waters. Parliament will enter now into negotiations with the Council in order to reach an early first-reading agreement.