29th July 2015: Today, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Oceana and WWF heralded a new era of fisheries transparency with the launch of an online database detailing 15,264 EU vessels authorised to fish outside EU waters between 2010 and 2014. The figures have been made public by the NGOs for the first time after an access-to-information request to the European Commission.
María José Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Director of Oceana, has stressed the importance of this disclosure: “Transparency is a key element for eradicating illegal fishing and ensuring sustainable fisheries. This is especially relevant for European vessels that have been authorised to operate in third countries and distant waters. To ensure sustainability on a global scale, EU fishing vessels should adhere to the same social and environmental standards regardless of where or how they fish.”
The data provided by the European Commission is presented in an accessible online search engine whofishesfar.org where users can search by vessel, flag state, year and type of agreement under the EU’s Fishing Authorisation Regulation (FAR). This is the first time the information has been made public: it was previously unknown how many vessels were authorised to fish outside the EU, what they were called, and where and when they were authorised to fish.
Eszter Hidas, EU Policy Officer for WWF's Illegal Fishing programme, stated: “The database is an important step towards transparency. But more needs to be done. First, the Commission should make a clear commitment to regularly release this information. Second, this information should include an analysis of the fishing activity in order to identify who is fishing, what, where and with which capacity. And, third, this should include private partnership agreements between EU operators and third countries. This will give us a complete overview of the global impact of the EU's fishing activity.”
The database includes vessels authorised to fish under official European fisheries partnership agreements, in third country waters, high seas and in Regional Fisheries Mangement Organisations. However, it does not include the so called ‘private agreements’ between vessel owners and coastal states, which allow the owners’ vessels to fish in the state’s waters, as these are not reported to the European Commission by EU member states. Campaigners are calling for member states to increase transparency and accountability for such private agreements when the FAR is updated this fall.
Notes to the editor
 Study on the European External Fleet Contract FISH/2006/02 Final Report, January 2008 http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/documentation/studies/study_external_fleet/external_fleet_2008_en.pdf