Enforcement must be part of new EU proposal to target illegal fishing

ClientEarth lawyers are calling for greater enforcement of sanctions against illegal fishing, following the release of the European Commission’s new fisheries control proposal.

The EU control system regulates all fishing activities in the EU and it states that national governments should impose “effective, dissuasive, proportionate” sanctions for serious breaches of the law. This includes penalty points similar to those for reckless drivers.

EU commissioner for Fisheries Karmenu Vella decided to revise this regulation last year. A number of organisations have criticised a rushed process during which the Commission failed to hold a proper online public consultation.

As a result, several key aspects have not been taken into consideration by the Commission when drafting its proposal.

ClientEarth lawyer Elisabeth Druel said:

“The proposed rules on sanctions against illegal fishers are an improvement but the Commission does not tackle the most important issue here, evidenced by our research, which is enforcement by EU countries. So far sanctions against illegal fishers have been rare and set at very low levels.

“Information on how EU countries sanction illegal fishers is not public at the moment. This lack of transparency undermines good implementation of fisheries laws. There should be an obligation to publish information on this important topic.

“We are asking for more clarity on the proposal to use cameras onboard certain fishing vessels to control the landing obligation, which is designed to prevent the wasteful practice of throwing undersize fish overboard. This control measure should apply to vessels which are at risk of illegally discarding fish”.

This proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and by member states in the Council of the EU. A group of organisations, including ClientEarth, is asking these European institutions to further strengthen the proposed rules and to improve transparency on their implementation.

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Sebastian Voortman

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