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EU approves new control rules

EU Parliament approves new EU fisheries controls  -  and promises “harmonisation of sanctions and margins of tolerance”


A ‘revamped’ fisheries control system has today, October 17th 2023, been passed by the European Parliament and has promised a more level playing feild with regards different nations’ level of sanctions for offences.


This will be of great interest to Irish fishermen who work in an industry that is largely over-regulated whilst reportedly some other nations such as the Netherlands, are under regulated in comparison.


Aside from the expected regulations such as AIS-type tracking systems and electronic log books, the new measures are to include declaration of catches from recreational sea angling boats via an electronic onboard system to be introduced by the authorities in each EU Member State.

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The new control rules as passed by EU Parliament are:


All EU fishing vessels will be monitored and their catches reported electronically, to ensure full traceability, under a revamped EU fisheries control system.


The new fisheries control regulation measures were approved by plenary on Tuesday with 438 to 146 and 40 abstentions. Under the new rules, all boats will need to carry on board a tracking device enabling national authorities to locate and identify them at regular intervals.


Certain small-scale vessels may be exempted from this obligation until 2030 and all small-scale fishing fleets will get up to four years to adapt to these new requirements.


The new EU law will help to collect more accurate data, to allow for the better management of sea resources. All EU vessels without exception will have to register and declare their catches in a digitalised way.


This applies in particular to fishing logbooks, transhipment declarations and landing declarations. Masters of vessels under 12 meters will be able to complete and submit a simplified declaration at the end of the fishing day, once they are safe in port and before landing.


For the first time, recreational boats will also have to declare catches, through electronic systems set up by national authorities or by the Commission.



Harmonisation of sanctions and margins of tolerance


The Regulation also tackles the current wide disparities between EU countries regarding sanctions. The value of fishery products caught by a vessel will now define the minimum level of fines applied to it in case of serious infringement of the rules.


The margin of tolerance - the difference between the estimate of the fish caught and the weight at the landing port - will be set at 10% per species, with some exceptions for small-volume catches and for some particular species.



Ensure landing obligation and traceability along the supply chain


To guarantee the respect for the so-called landing obligation, EU vessels of 18 meters or more that may pose a high risk of non-compliance will have to carry on-board remote electronic monitoring systems, including closed-circuit television, at the latest four years after the entry into force of the legislation.


Operators will have to retain information from across the supply chain, from the sea to the plate, including from first sale to the retail stage of fishery and aquaculture products. The full digital traceability of fish and its derivatives should help reinforce food safety, ensure fairer competition and combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.



Quote

Rapporteur Clara Aguilera (S&D, ES) stated: “We have reached a balanced agreement for the EU’s fisheries sector. The new control rules will be harmonised and more transparent, with fully digital procedures. Fishermen will have four years to adapt to the changes and the small-scale fisheries sector will benefit from simplified reporting obligations.


“With this, MEPs are responding to the demand of consumers for information about the origin of all the food they eat”.


Next steps

Once formally adopted by the Council, the regulation will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal. However, several measures will be gradually implemented, giving member states and fishing fleets enough time to adapt.



Background

The European Commission proposed a revision of the fisheries control system in 2018 to modernise and simplify the rules for monitoring fisheries activities and to ensure compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).


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