Today the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation to establish a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, by both the EU fleet wherever it fishes and for all vessels, including from third countries, in Europe’s seas. A prohibition of imports from illegally caught fish, a tightening up of transshipping rules in EU waters and the development of a Blacklist of European vessels are just a few of the steps forward which this proposal aims to introduce.
According to Xavier Pastor, the Executive Director of Oceana in Europe: “The Commission has set out a serious problem, which up to now has only been tackled in a halfhearted way, with no wide ranging and strong measures agreed to stop it”. He added: “Pirate fishing has reached alarming levels, including by the EU fleet, and constitutes one of the main threats to fisheries resources across the globe”.
According to the communiqué of Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg earlier this afternoon: “There must be zero tolerance for pirate fishing….The EU needs to lead by example”. Oceana has documented more than 150 French and Italian vessels in the Mediterranean fishing with driftnets, an illegal fishing gear. In total these vessels have received millions of euros in subsidies for reconversion, modernization, construction or scrapping. A successful policy to combat IUU fishing will be measured by the EU’s ability to finally eliminate driftnets, five years after they became illegal.
Oceana also highlights that the majority of swordfish imported into the EU from Morocco is caught using driftnets. Morocco has until 2009 to eliminate this destructive fishing gear from it’s fleet, after which it becomes illegal. Noting that the Commission proposes to prevent the imports of illegally caught fish, these imports will no longer be allowed if driftnet use continues.
Julie Cator, Policy Director of Oceana Europe, adds: “Driftnets are an example of an illegal practice that continues within the EU fleet due to a combination of control failures and collusion by some governments. This afternoon the Commission set an important challenge to the Member States. We hope that they take up the challenge and work together towards an IUU policy that will really protect our fish resources”.