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EU fisheries can only sustainably manage fish stocks if they are accurately measured ǀ View

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By EU Fisheries Control Coalition
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This week members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will take part in a vote that will prove crucial to the future of our seas, and the communities who depend on them.

This vote is to amend the Fisheries Control Regulation, the EU’s system for monitoring, inspection, and enforcement of fishing in EU waters and the EU fishing fleet’s global operations. The Control Regulation is key to enabling fishers, decision-makers, and civil society to count the fish taken from our seas, and to monitor the impact of fishing activities on fragile marine ecosystems.

Any changes to this regulation should improve the sustainability and long-term prospects for our ocean and for fishers. However, if MEPs vote to accept all of the revisions currently proposed by the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries (PECH), they could be endorsing a backward step for EU fisheries policy.

A decision to not take up these new technologies could see the EU fishing industry miss out on opportunities for job creation and the EU Green Deal’s digital and green transition.
The EU Fisheries Control Coalition

For example, the PECH committee’s proposal to increase the margin of error in reporting of catches by the fishing industry could lead to massive underreporting and overfishing and could allow up to two-fifths of fish caught in the EU to go unaccounted for. This would completely undermine the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy and jeopardise the EU’s credibility as a global leader on ocean governance, including its zero-tolerance approach towards illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by countries outside the EU.

Another example concerns the committee’s proposal to reject the mandatory use of electronic technology, such as CCTV cameras, to help record fish catches, despite their successful uptake, and significant financial benefits to the fishers that use it in Europe, and in other jurisdictions such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

By embracing these methods, the EU Fisheries Control Regulation has the potential to make accountable and sustainable fishing in EU seas possible; providing not only a comprehensive record of the fish that is caught but also the impact of fishing activities on sensitive and protected species like marine mammals and seabirds.

A decision to not take up these new technologies could see the EU fishing industry miss out on opportunities for job creation and the EU Green Deal’s digital and green transition.

The Control Regulation has been a cornerstone of the Common Fisheries Policy since 2010. However, significant weaknesses or loopholes were identified by the European Court of Auditors in 2017, which called for more efforts in EU fisheries control, including the reliability of reported catch data.

On Wednesday, it is imperative that MEPs from every European country vote in favour of amendments that ensure our control system accurately counts the fish from our seas, and measures the impact of fishing activities on our fragile marine ecosystems. By backing the use of these new control tools, MEPs can help ensure an EU Green Deal transition to sustainable fisheries, healthy seas, and thriving coastal communities.

The EU Fisheries Control Coalition, made up of non-profit organisations across Europe, is calling on MEPs to support four key measures when voting on the revision of the Control Regulation on March 10:

Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) must be made mandatory, to ensure accurate records of everything we catch, including sensitive and protected species. REM, which includes the use of onboard cameras, is internationally proven as a reliable, cost-effective, and scalable means to support well-managed, accountable, and sustainable fishing.

Keep track of unwanted catches, including protected and sensitive species. Dolphins, seabirds, turtles, and other sensitive species die by the thousands each year due to incidental capture in EU fishing nets. By recording where and when bycatch takes place, fishers throughout the EU can be part of finding solutions.

Ensure that every fish caught is accounted for. This measure counters a PECH committee proposal to increase flexibility that would allow up to two-fifths of catches to go unreported official records, completely undermining accountability and accurate catch reporting.

Ensure transparency from EU member states on how they control their fisheries. This measure aims to change the current scenario from one where member states can currently veto the disclosure of fisheries information without any reason, to one where full transparency is required.

The EU Fisheries Control Coalition is an alliance of leading NGOs that works with organisations and individuals throughout Europe to secure a fisheries control system that safeguards ocean health and marine resources for generations to come.

- Vanya Vulperhorst, Campaign Director Ending Illegal Fishing through Transparency, Oceana in Europe

- Marta Marrero Martin, Oceans Governance Director, The Nature Conservancy

- Katrin Vilhelm Poulsen, Senior Seafood Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office

- Nick Goetschalckx, Fisheries Lawyer, ClientEarth

- Gonçalo Carvalho, Executive Coordinator, Sciaena

- Andrea Ripol, Fisheries Policy Officer, Seas At Risk

- Georg Werner, Campaigner, Environmental Justice Foundation