EU external fishing fleet: agreement on the new authorisation system  

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  • clear, harmonised rules on all fishing authorisations outside EU waters
  • common eligibility criteria
  • monitoring reflagging operations for vessels that later return to the EU register
  • public register of vessels including where they fish, and which species they target

The new law to streamline fishing authorisations for EU vessels fishing outside Union waters was agreed with the Council on Tuesday.

“With this deal the EU is delivering on Ocean Governance and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 by improving transparency and governance of its fishing fleet operating outside Union waters. It is ground breaking since it covers all kinds of fishing operations of the external fleet, also fishing through direct authorisations and on the high seas, two areas, which until now have had no EU legislative framework. This is imperative to creating a level playing field between operators of the EU external fleet,” said the rapporteur Linnéa ENGSTRÖM (Greens/EFA, SV).


“Another novel measure is that the Commission will set up an electronic register for all authorizations of fishing activities outside Union waters. The new register will be an efficient tool for Member states and the Commission to monitor all activities of our fishing fleet outside Union waters. It will lead to greater transparency and accountability as a part of the register also is available to the public. This part includes information on vessel names and IMO numbers, what they fish and where they fish”, she added.


Fishing authorisations

An EU vessel fishing outside Union waters would need to obtain an authorisation by its flag member state to fish outside Union waters. The authorisation would be based on a set of common eligibility criteria which would include, inter alia:


  • administrative information on the vessel, its owner and the master,
  • a unique vessel identification number by International Maritime Organisation (IMO) where this is required by Union legislation
  • valid fishing license
  • 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


Monitoring authorisations

A flag state would need to monitor  on a regular basis whether the conditions on the basis of which a fishing authorisation has been issued continue to be met during the period of validity of that authorisation.

Reflagging operations

Vessels that during the five years prior to the application for an authorisation have left the Union register to be 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.


Public register

An EU electronic fishing authorisation register would be set up with a part of it being accessible to the public. The public part will contain information on the name of the vessel, IMO number, target species and fishing zone.


Next steps

The agreement will be put to the plenary vote in September (tbc). The new regulation would replace the current 'Fishing Authorisations Regulation' 1006/2008, and would apply to EU vessels fishing outside EU waters, and to third-country vessels fishing in EU waters.