Commission reprimand an opportunity for France and Spain to reform EU fisheries controls

Date: 28 September 2021

Reacting to the European Commission citing both France and Spain for their failure to comply with their commitments on fisheries controls and enforcement of the landing obligation – the EU’s ban on throwing back fish caught at sea – the EU Fisheries Control Coalition today called on the governments of both countries to address the problem at its root and to work towards a strong new EU fisheries Control Regulation [1].

“This is a clear example of where basic rules of the Common Fisheries Policy are not being enforced by Member States and where the EU’s fisheries control system needs to be modernised. If we don’t know how much fish is actually caught, the risk of overfishing increases. The landing obligation is crucial for ensuring that catch reporting is accurate, while also fostering innovation for more selective fishing gear, which ultimately supports more sustainable fisheries.” said Dr Antonia Leroy, Head of Ocean Policy at the WWF European Policy Office

“With EU governments currently negotiating the revision of the EU fisheries Control Regulation, together with the European Commission and Parliament, this is a perfect opportunity for French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin, and Spanish Fisheries Minister Luis Planas to address these implementation problems and to ensure that the future law establishes rules that ensure better enforcement”, said Vanya Vulperhorst, Campaign Director illegal fishing and transparency at Oceana in Europe

“The EU’s prohibitions on discarding fish must be enforced, and will require transparency, the use of digital fisheries control tools alongside the implementation of meaningful deterrent sanctions to help eliminate this illegal and destructive practice”, said Steve Trent, CEO of the Environmental Justice Foundation.

“More transparency showing what Member States are (not) doing to ensure compliance with the landing obligation is key. The European Commission audits national fisheries control systems. By allowing parliamentarians and civil society in every EU country to access these audits, they can help identify and address persistent compliance issues. Spain, France and other Member States could thereby help avoid a potentially costly infringement procedure in the future”, Trent added.

“In addition, these governments need to digitalise the fisheries sector, which the EU has already committed to, and support Remote Electronic Monitoring in the new fisheries Control Regulation. France and Spain should stop relying solely on traditional fisheries control tools, such as at-sea inspections. Requiring remote electronic monitoring (including CCTV) on EU fishing vessels would be far more efficient. This technology is already used in countries both in and outside of Europe, and proven to work [2]. Spain and France should thus use the current revision of the EU fisheries Control Regulation to ensure that cameras are put on all fishing vessels above 12 metres in length and those below 12 metres length which are at-risk of non-compliance with fisheries control rules” said Marta Marrero Martin, Ocean Governance Director at The Nature Conservancy.

“Finally, fishers are currently not punished the same way across Europe for violating sustainable fishing laws, like the discard ban. This is unfair and drives overfishing as it creates a race to the bottom to break the law where the sanctions are the lowest. A minimum level of sanctions must be set across the EU to prevent this and to ensure the law is actually enforced.” said Arthur Meeùs, Fisheries Lawyer at ClientEarth.