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EU fishing vessels. (Photo: EC)

NGOs welcome new EU regulation for external fishing fleet

EUROPEAN UNION
Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 23:40 (GMT + 9)

Non-governmental organizations Oceana, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and WWF have welcomed the new regulation of the European Union's external fishing fleet, which operates worldwide and contributes 28 per cent of the total fishing catch of the European bloc.

After almost two years’ negotiations, the text approved on Tuesday afternoon means that more than 23,000 vessels should be governed by the same sustainability standards, no matter where they operate.

The three organizations, which form part of a coalition of NGOs in favour of an ambitious reform of the EU external fleet, point out that the regulation negotiated between the European Commission, Parliament and the Council of Fisheries Ministers will involve:

  • For the first time releasing official data on which vessels are fishing and where. This will include private agreements -- those in which EU flagged vessels directly signs contracts with the government of a non-EU country to fish in its waters --, which will make the EU's external fleet the most transparent in the world. 
  • Requiring equally high standards for all vessels requesting authorization to fish outside EU waters. 
  • Stopping the so-called abusive re-flagging, whereby a ship quickly and repeatedly changes flag to circumvent conservation measures. 
  • Ensuring that fishing activities within private agreements meet EU standards. Until now, they lacked EU oversight and did not have to meet any EU management requirements. There was no public or EU-wide information on whom was fishing or where it was.

The previous regulation, in force since 2008, involved unfair competition among operators and prevented EU authorities from ensuring that vessels fished legally and sustainably. The new regulation removes these inconsistencies and ensures that all vessels are subject to stringent and identical requirements for fishing outside EU waters.

"We have just taken a major step towards global transparency and the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The EU is leading the change and now it needs to be extended internationally. Only through transparency can we eradicate IUU fishing, help developing countries heavily dependent on fish resources and recover fisheries around the world," says María José Cornax, director of Oceana's Policy Strategy in Europe.

"We congratulate the European Union on these new measures to ensure the sustainability and responsibility of its external fishing fleet. With the implementation of this new regulation, the EU will continue to lead the way in the global fight against illegal fishing. We now hope that other countries will follow the same path and implement equally stringent rules for their ships. It will be of great importance to release the data on where these boats are fishing so that the public can see them. In doing so, the necessary steps will be taken to protect the legitimate fishers’ rights and conserve the oceans for the communities that depend on them for their food and livelihood," adds Steve Trent, EJF's executive director.

"Through these decisions, Europe clearly shows its determination to fulfill its commitment to lead sustainable and equitable international fisheries governance. The new requirements will boost the progress already being made with the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and the legislation to combat illegal fishing activities anywhere in the world. Together, these progressive and ambitious policies will undoubtedly benefit people, coastal communities and the marine environment," says Dr. Mireille Thom, a marine policy specialist at WWF in the United Kingdom.

Related article:

Rules agreed to improve fishing activities sustainability and transparency

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