Press release: 14 January 2021

NGOs urge the European Parliament to end secrecy in how fishing rules are enforced

72 civil society organisations from the EU and across the globe have called on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to end secrecy around how fishing activities are controlled and sanctioned in a crucial vote to be taken in the Fisheries Committee on 26 January 2021.

In a letter sent to all MEPs, the signatories warn that the lack of transparency in the current implementation of the EU Fisheries Control Regulation means the law is in fact failing to prevent illegal fishing. This, in turn, is a major threat to the sustainability of marine resources, food security and the livelihoods of local communities.

Nick Goetschalckx from ClientEarth said: “National authorities receive millions of euros to ensure EU rules are properly implemented – but it’s currently impossible to know if they actually are. How many fishing trips are inspected? How many illegal fishing activities are uncovered and are these environmental crimes effectively sanctioned? This data is not available to the public; and Member States can even veto the release of this information by the European Commission.”

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info said: “A lack of transparency facilitates the spread of misinformation, and reduces confidence in the work of fisheries control authorities. Transparency is imperative to ensure that illegal fishing does not undermine the European Green Deal, and hence MEPs should be supporting these amendments.

According to the organisations, to prevent fraudulent practices and make fishing accountable, legal and sustainable, the European Commission and Member States should be required to publish aggregated data on how fisheries control rules are being implemented, as well as information on infringements and sanctions.

“Publicly available data on fishing controls is essential for Members of the European Parliament and EU agencies in ensuring rules and regulations are properly enforced, just as it is vital for independent scrutiny by journalists and civil society organisations. There are no credible excuses for hiding such readily available information,” said Steve Trent, Executive Director of the Environmental Justice Foundation.

The proposal to increase transparency has already been approved by the European Parliament’s Environment (ENVI) Committee and is in line with the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The signatories of the letter therefore urge the Members of the Fisheries Committee to join their ENVI colleagues and put an end to secrecy by bringing fisheries controls in line with established legal transparency principles.

“To create a level playing field, Member States and Members of the European Parliament, fishers, consumers and civil society have the right to know the information necessary to assess whether the fisheries Control Regulation is equally and effectively implemented in all EU Member States,” concluded Vanya Vulperhorst, Campaign Director of Illegal Fishing and Transparency at Oceana in Europe.



Access Info Europe


Environmental Justice Foundation


Our Fish


Seas at Risk

The Fisheries Secretariat

The Nature Conservancy


Abogado del Consumidor

Academia Cidadã

Access to Information Programme


Article 19

Asociación ACIMA

Asociación Andaluza para la Defensa de los Animales (ASANDA)

Asociación Española de Acreditación de la Transparencia (ACREDITRA)

Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE)

Association SOS Grand Bleu


Citizens Network Watchdog Poland

Clean Air Action Group

Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements (CFFA-CAPE)

Corporate Europe Observatory

Défense des Milieux Aquatiques

Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH)

Diritto Di Sapere

Eaten Fish Soon Forgotten

Ecologistas en Acción

Environmental Investigative Forum (EIF)

ePaństwo Foundation


European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD)

Fair-fish International Association

Fish for tomorrow

Flimkien ghal Ambjent Aħjar Malta

France Nature Environnement (FNE)

Fundació ENT

Fundación Global Nature

Fundación Lonxanet

Funky Citizens

Global Aktion

Greenpeace España

Greenpeace Italia

Informationsgruppe Lateinamerika (IGLA)

Innovación y Derechos Humanos

International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF)

International Lawyers Project

Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE)


Marine Conservation Society


Naturschutzgesellschaft Schutzstation Wattenmeer e.V.

New Economics Foundation (NEF)

Ö (Swiss Foia)

Open State Foundation

Political Watch

Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA)

Right To Know


Romanian Academic Society


Surfrider Foundation Europe

Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC)

The Digital Freedom and Rights Association (DFRI)

The Good Lobby Italia

Transparency International EU


We Sign It (France en Europe)

World Sustainability Organization - Friend of the Sea program

WWF España

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