The EU institutions reached provisional agreement Wednesday on updated rules to help prevent overfishing and modernising the way fishing activities in EU waters are controlled. The revision of the fisheries control system modernises the way fishing activities are controlled to ensure that EU vessels and those fishing in EU waters follow the rules set out in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The agreement updates around 70% of the existing rules for controlling fishing vessels with the aim of making EU fishing more sustainable. The main changes include:

  • vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and electronic recording: to ensure compliance with the CFP, all fishing vessels will be tracked via a VMS (for certain smaller vessels, these rules will apply as of 2029) and will be required to record their catches via electronic means
  • recreational fisheries: recreational fishers catching specific species will need to undergo registration and to record and report their catches via an electronic system
  • landing obligation: remote electronic monitoring tools will be used to ensure that unwanted catches are brought to shore
  • revision of the sanctioning system: minimum levels of administrative financial penalties will be set for serious infringements of the CFP rules, as an alternative to criminal sanctions; a list of common criteria for some of the listed serious infringements will be agreed at EU level
  • improved traceability along the supply chain: it will be easier to trace fresh fishery and aquaculture products (including processed products following a Commission study and a five-year transition phase)

There are also new rules on the margin of tolerance (or error) when estimating catches, which will help avoid misreporting. Data collection on recreational fisheries will also be enhanced. Finally, certain larger vessels will be equipped with a device to measure engine power, to ensure that their fishing capacity remains within the limits set out in the CFP. In general, the new rules will apply two to four years from their adoption. This will leave enough time for the EU’s fishing authorities and other relevant stakeholders to adapt to the new requirements.

A digital system (known as “CATCH”) will be introduced in the context of the catch certification scheme for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The aim is to ensure that catch certificates and other related documents will be managed in a single, EU-wide digital environment, thus improving the ability of authorities to detect products stemming from IUU fishing.

Non-EU countries will be able to produce and validate catch certificates directly in the CATCH digital environment. For fishery products imported into the EU, importers will also need to submit catch certificates via CATCH.

The EU is the world’s biggest market for seafood, and fishing plays an important economic, social and cultural role in many EU countries. The CFP sets out principles to help maintain healthy fish stocks in EU waters while also supporting fishing communities. These include quotas to prevent overfishing, restrictions on the engine power of vessels, and obligations to release sensitive species such as sharks back into the water.

In order to ensure compliance with these rules, the EU needs a modern, effective and harmonised fisheries control system that makes use of the best available technology.

Source: EUbusiness

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