March 15, 2021
The European Parliament has voted in favor of a new fisheries control system that could pave the way for reforms of key fishing regulations in place for the last 10 years.
The approval of the new system, which received 401 votes in favor, 247 against, and 47 abstentions from members of the European Parliament (MEPs), is a major boost to efforts to achieve and maintain sustainable fishing activities – including in Africa, where several countries have signed fisheries partnership agreements with the European Union.
With the vote, select MEPs are expected to launch talks with the European Council as seafood industry operators prepare to adopt the new fisheries control system, which allows four years from the date it takes effect for compliance.
The introduction of the use of technology in enforcing fishing regulations – improving security and transparency and ensuring seafood consumers “know when, where, and how the products they buy are caught” – is a central component of the approved fisheries control system.
The new fishing regulations now require mandatory use of on-board cameras in carrying out checks on landing obligations for a “minimum percentage” of vessels longer than 12 meters, and which have been identified as “posing a serious risk of non-compliance.”
“The equipment will also be imposed as an accompanying sanction for all vessels that commit two or more serious infringements,” E.U. Parliament said.
To woo more vessel owners into voluntarily deploying on-board cameras, the new regulations have proposed incentives “such as additional allocation of quotas or having their infringement points removed.”
Furthermore, the E.U. Parliament supported a push for harmonizing sanctions, and proposed the introduction of a register – the European Union Register – where all infringements will be recorded to centralize data from all E.U. member-states.
Additionally, some MEPs have called for a clearly defined system of sanctions targeting recreational fishermen to protect marine life. And the E.U. – which has been a strong advocate of traceability in the seafood industry through its Farm-to-Fork Strategy – would now require all member-countries ensure all the seafood bought, sold, and traded in their countries has full-chain traceability, including processed and imported products.
The traceability rules stipulate that information covering the species of fish; the location, date, and time it was caught; and the type of gear used should be easily accessible as the E.U. and its partners work to promote long-term sustainable fishing operations globally.
The new regulations are also aiming to combat ghost gear, requiring all fishing vessels to “notify national authorities when they lose fishing gear and to carry on board the necessary equipment to retrieve it.”
The new regulations have implications on the African seafood market because the E.U. has signed sustainable fisheries partnership agreements worth EUR 111 million (USD 132.7 million) with 13 countries, ranging from a EUR 550,000 (USD 657,477) access deal with Cape Verde to EUR 59 million (USD 70.5 million) for Mauritania.
The E.U. has signed fisheries agreements with other African governments, but since there is no existing protocol yet in force in the deal, they remain dormant. Deals in this category include the E.U.’s compacts with Mozambique, Gambia, and Equatorial Guinea.
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