EC Plans New Control Regulation

28th November 2008 in Europe / Common Fisheries Policy

The European Commission has plans for a new Control Regulation for European Fisheries.

The EC control regime was recently the subject of devastating criticism by the European Court of Auditors and much of the Commission’s new proposal can be seen as a response to this criticism.

The Court of Auditors said that the CFP control regime was “inefficient, expensive, complex and does not deliver the desired results.” The Commission identifies fleet overcapacity as one of the main reasons for non-compliance in the CFP but in many respects seems out of touch with recent developments, especially in those member states, including the UK, where substantial progress has been made towards high levels of compliance in recent years.

The Commission’s Proposal for a new control regime emphasises:

  • Reliance on new technologies like electronic logbooks and VMS
  • VMS for all over 10m vessels by 1st January 2012
  • Risk analysis to focus enforcement on problem areas
  • Full product traceability
  • Certification and crosschecking of engine power
  • Standardised procedures and sanctions across member states
  • Bringing recreational angling into the control system
  • Increasing the powers of the Commission and the Community Fisheries Control Agency

The proposed Regulation will now be the subject of consultation with member states, the regional advisory councils and others before adoption, probably sometime next year. It may reasonably be expected that the text will be substantially amended before it can be accepted by member states.

The RACs have repeatedly made the point that the 8% margin of tolerance between onboard logbook estimates and definitive landing declarations is unrealistic and unachievable on a consistent basis, especially for small quantities of by-catch species. A UK research project using independent experts suggested that they were no more likely to make accurate catch estimates in real conditions than skippers and crews. The Commission’s incredible reaction has been to propose a 5% margin of tolerance. Apart from illustrating the gulf between the Commission and the realities faced aboard fishing vessels, it is clear that there will have to be considerable movement on this and other issues before the Regulation will be in an acceptable form.

The Commission proposes that recreational fisheries that impact on stock subject to a multi-annual plan will have to have their catches monitored and that catch will have to be deducted from national allocations. If adopted this is obviously a policy with potentially huge implications for both the commercial fleet and anglers.

From an NFFO point of view there is a strong case for simplifying and consolidating and modernising the Control Regulation. But good fisheries management must meet four preconditions, which are intertwined and mutually supporting*:

  • Fleet capacity must be broadly in balance with available resources
  • There must be a high degree of compliance with the rules. If there is not a high degree of compliance the system is broken
  • The fleet must by profitable at a level that allows the fleet to renew itself without external subsidy and to survive external “shocks”
  • Management measures must be based on good information. This includes fish stock assessments

The European Commission would be well advised to pursue its control ambitions in relation to these principles.

*The Fisheries Management Jigsaw from “Net Benefits” UK Cabinet Office 2004