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Tightening the net on overfishing - 14/11/2008

A net being emptied on board a trawler © EC

New steps to ensure rules on fishing are respected EU-wide.

Fisheries in the EU are regulated to protect stocks from overfishing and prevent damage to marine ecosystems. EU countries are responsible for making sure that rules are respected. A new proposal seeks to ensure the rules are enforced more effectively.

Control procedures for fishermen’s catches, including inspections, will be standardised to ensure that rules are being applied in the same way around the EU. Checks take place at each point in the chain that takes a fish from the net to the plate – at sea, in port, during transport and on the market.

Compliance with the rules will be made easier by simplifying regulations and making sure the penalties for illegal fishing are similar throughout the EU. Repeat offenders may eventually have their fishing permits suspended. The changes are also intended to create a culture of compliance so that everyone working in the industry feels responsible for its future.

“The future of sustainable fisheries requires us to replace a system which is inefficient, expensive and complex with one which can really produce results,” said fisheries commissioner Joe Borg. “I believe this proposal will give all the actors involved the tools they need to do the job.”

The commission will also have greater capacity to ensure EU governments are enforcing fisheries policy. This would enable the commission to close down fisheries more easily and impose financial penalties on EU governments.

Most stocks were again overfished in 2008, according to figures released earlier this month by the commission. Catch limits are in place to avoid overfishing and allow vulnerable stocks, such as cod, haddock and whiting, to build up their numbers once again.

The EU’s 27 fisheries ministers will discuss these proposals when they meet in December.

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