Sunday, November 16, 2008

Commissioner Borg tries to clear murky waters of EU fishing industry

The European Commission proposed today (Nov 14) tougher measures including crackdown on illegal fishing with a penalty point system to restore threatened fish stocks.

Launching the Commission plans, European Fisheries Commissioner told journalists in Brussels, “Control and enforcement should be the cornerstone of the Common Fisheries Policy. Instead it is our Achille's heel,” adding, “the proposed framework we have adopted today will provide effective deterrence, reduce the administrative burden and costs, and ensure we have a system in place which is simple, transparent, and fair.”

Expanding the range of powers of EU inspections, the Commissioner said: “The new control regulation will ensure that inspection activities are no longer almost only focused on operations at sea, where the chances of detecting a breach of the rules are often remote, but are present at every link of the chain - in port, during transport and whilst marketing.”

Calling on all the stakeholders in the sector to give their inputs and then respect the rules, Borg said, “the rules we make are seen to be fair and for the common good,” adding, “we need to ensure that there is a genuine level playing field for all operators.”

Reiterating the importance of the role of member states in the implementation of the rules, Commissioner Borg also proposed, “to give the Commission itself the power it needs to do the job.”

The Commission has pointed that even after spending 400 million Euro a year on fishing controls, there is no reliable data on fish catches. Commissioner Borg told journalists, “without accurate data on catches and landings, the very scientific advice on which we depend becomes unreliable.”

Under the new tough system, the holders of fishing permits face losing their basic right to fish if suspended for six and then 12 months. The point system will govern EU vessels even outside EU waters and non-EU vessels in EU waters and it will be applicable to the fishing vessel, and to the crew's master and officers.

Expanding the present system of “only own country” inspections, Borg proposals will give power to each EU country to inspect other country vessels, if or when needed.

The points register will be maintained in the vessel’s flag country with the EU countries asked for mandatory inspection of fish landings, processing, transport and marketing, as well as to monitor criteria such as a vessel's fishing capacity and its engine power.
Toughening the stand against lenient EU countries, the Commission threatened to cut or suspend the EU subsidies, cut quotas or in an extreme case forbidding fishing in the EU waters, Commissioner Borg said.

The Commissioner concluded, “Control is not the solution to all fisheries management problems. But there can be no sustainable fisheries, without a fair, effective and transparent control system.” The proposals still await agreement from fisheries ministers from all 27 member states.

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