New Portuguese action plan to enforce EU fisheries rules18 September 2014
by eub2 -- last modified 18 September 2014
As part of efforts to ensure that fisheries rules are respected across the EU, the European Commission adopted on 17 September an action plan to help upgrade the Portuguese fisheries control system to European standards. This plan was prepared in partnership with the Portuguese authorities to ensure that Portugal complies fully with the requirements of the EU's 2009 Fisheries Control Regulation and the new Common Fisheries Policy to achieve sustainable fishing. The Portuguese action plan focuses largely on the catch registration system, in order to ensure that essential data to monitor catches are complete, reliable and timely. To that end, the development of IT tools to collect, share and analyse data is essential. Catch data are reported by fishermen so control authorities can monitor their fishing quotas and thus prevent overfishing.
What does the action plan seek to achieve?
Effective fisheries control is seen as essential for the sustainability of European fisheries. This, says the Commission, is best achieved if all fishermen in the EU play by the same rules. To that end, the Commission is working with all the Member states individually to bring their national control system up to European standards. Where general, systemic shortcomings are identified action plans are drawn up to identify steps needed to address these shortcomings.
The Portuguese action plan focuses largely on the catch registration system, with the aim to ensure that the essential data required to effectively monitor catches are complete, reliable and available in a timely manner. For example, measures within the action plan include the development of IT tools to enable more effective data collection, sharing and analyses. A fully functioning catch registration system is essential for national control authorities to monitor that fishing quotas are respected and overfishing avoided.
Several measures in the plan aim to re-establish the chain of control, and the flow of catch data between mainland Portugal's fisheries authorities and those of the Portuguese offshore archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira.
Also included are measures which focus on Portugal's inspection activities, to support a more robust control system; for instance the introduction of risk assessment as a tool to enable strategic use of inspection resources and the improvement of coordination and resource sharing between the different authorities involved in inspection activities (Navy, Air force, National Republican Guard (GNR), and the fisheries authorities of the Azores and Madeira).
In addition, there are measures which aim to inform fishing communities, raise awareness and ultimately increase the degree of compliance by the fishing industry.
Which other countries have an action plan in place?
Before today's announcement action plans have already been agreed with Malta, Spain, Italy, France, and Latvia whilst others are in the pipeline for Bulgaria and Romania.
The Maltese Action Plan, adopted in 2011, seeks to improve the control systems for Bluefin Tuna due to identified shortcomings in catch monitoring. Malta's was the first administrative inquiry followed by an action plan jointly monitored with the Commission.
Since the fishery concerned was subject to a recovery plan, the actions in the action plan increased the overall compliance of the EU with ICCAT rules and produced a management plan with control measures approved by the international community. These include real time monitoring and a significant deployment of inspectors.
The action plan puts Malta in line with ICCAT's long term recovery plan for Bluefin tuna.
The Spanish action plan, adopted in 2012, was triggered by the problems identified in their catch registration system, in particular in relation to the late collection of control data, the lack of coordination between control authorities and data reliability.
With the quota system depending on accurate data to avoid overfishing, the Commission worked with the Spanish authorities to improve the operations of their systems. Based on the action plan the Spanish authorities have set up a coordination mechanism between the central authorities and the Autonomous Communities. They have totally reshaped their catch registration system and have developed effective IT tools. Other concrete actions taken by Spain include the restriction of fishing possibilities for vessels having exceeded their quota, for instance in the hake fishery.
The focus of inspections in Spain has been significantly improved by risk driven control strategy and joint operations between the Autonomous Communities inspectors, Guardia civil, Navy and the state fishery inspection services. This has significantly reduced the risk of overfishing mackerel compared to previous years.
Italy's Action Plan, adopted in 2013, focuses on overcoming some malfunctioning in the monitoring, control and inspection of its fishing activities under the CFP identified in 2010 and 2011, including the use of illegal driftnets.
It focuses mainly on control systems for highly migratory species. Intensified control activities are therefore conducted for the large pelagic fisheries, both within the framework of the Bluefin tuna recovery plan and the swordfish closed seasons.
Driftnets sanctioning procedures were also incorporated into the action plan which is currently in its first stage of implementation.
The French action plan, adopted in June 2014, focuses on the catch registration system in order to ensure that the data available to national controllers is complete, reliable and timely.
It consolidates measures already taken by France and also includes measures such as the development of IT tools.
Following Commission audits revealing shortcomings in Latvia's control system, in particular in terms its administrative structure and resource availability, an action plan was jointly designed with the Latvian authorities.
Latvia's action plan, adopted in 2013, has achieved significant progress in allocating additional human resources and setting administrative, legal and technical structures to implement CFP rules. IT structures have also improved and control procedures streamlined.
An administrative inquiry is ongoing in Bulgaria and in Romania to tackle shortcomings identified in their turbot fishery. The objective is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of these failures in order to identify concrete remedial actions that will be carried out in an agreed timetable. Depending on the outcome, action plans could be adopted in due course.
What if a Member State does not follow through with its Action Plan commitments?
Where there is no, or insufficient, action taken by the Member State within the deadlines fixed in the action plan, the Commission could start infringement proceedings.
Who does what in the EU fisheries control system?
Fisheries rules and control systems are agreed on at EU level, but implemented by the national authorities and inspectors of EU Member States. The day-to-day enforcement of the rules is for the national authorities: national inspectorates monitor for instance what gear is being used, or how many tonnes of fish are caught and then landed.
To encourage closer collaboration and exchange of best practices, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) in Vigo, Spain, organises joint control campaigns, where inspectors from different EU countries work together.
The Commission has its own body of inspectors, but they do not police the fishermen directly. Rather, their role is to inspect the control systems put in place by the Member States, and make sure that the CFP rules are enforced effectively and fairly across the whole of the EU. In that capacity they also can participate in national inspections. In order to be able to assess the reality on the ground the Commission inspectors carry out both announced and unannounced inspections in Member States.
What has the Commission done on control since the Regulation came into force?
The Commission has tackled non-compliance issues by issuing 45 warning pilot letters to Member States previously identified in preliminary infringement proceedings. Most of these cases have been satisfactorily resolved.
However, systemic control deficiencies identified in audits cannot always be addressed effectively in individual basis, and require an action plan with a set of complementary corrective measures. The results of this work can be seen today with the Portuguese action plan, the previous adoption of similar plans in Malta, Spain, Italy, France and Latvia, and the plans in preparation with regard to Bulgaria and Romania. All of these constitute concrete, detailed roadmaps for the improvement of control systems.
The aim was to move away from cases involving structural issues requiring adaptations to complex administrative systems to a more cooperative and collaborative way of working with Member States than in more traditional infringement cases, which can take a longer period of time before yielding results on the ground. Action Plans are one way of demonstrating this approach. In order to be able to assess the reality on the ground the Commission also carries out both announced and unannounced inspections in Member States.
Other important milestones in the development of the Control Regulation include coordinated inspections by means of Joint Deployment Plans and data exchange programmes between Member States and the European Fisheries Control Agency. Moreover, a new a Fisheries Expert Group on Compliance will be established, following the CFP Reform, to allow the Commission and Member States to strengthen and simplify control implementation in an open and transparent way.
Is control funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund?
Yes, the new EMFF €690 million control budget almost doubles the amount made available for control. Out of this amount, € 580 million has been ring-fenced to support the development of control programmes such as these action plans.
EU system for fisheries controls