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Ministers discuss Combating ‘Pirate’ Fishing

At the meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, chaired by the Slovenian Minister of Agriculture, Iztok Jarc, Ministers for the first time discussed specific solutions to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). They agreed that an effective system should be set in place to prevent this type of fishing. Nevertheless, the following issues still remained unresolved: the validity of the proposed rules on Community vessels, the system for the certification of fisheries products, and administrative sanctions. At the Council meeting, the minsters unanimously adopted the Council Regulation providing for the adaptation of cod fishing quotas to be allocated to Poland in the Baltic Sea and the Commission presented a plan for the recovery of five cod stock areas.

“The EU must take a step towards efficiently combating the kind of fishing that threatens more than 25% of the world’s fish stocks. We thereby wish to set an example to the international community and prove that pirate fishing does not pay," explained Minister Jarc.  In this regard, he added: "The key message is that the Ministers are determined to stamp out IUU fishing in the European Union."

The Ministers discussed three key outstanding issues, i.e. the proposed scope of the Regulation, the certification system and the coordination of sanctions against IUU fishing.

In respect of the scope of the Regulation, the majority expressed the view that the activities of Community vessels are already regulated by Community legislation. The proposal for a Regulation only needs to be harmonised with the existing Regulation on control measures.

The proposed fishery product import and export certification system should be adapted and simplified, thus contributing to more efficient practical implementation. Some countries proposed that the certification system should be applied only to products which are more at risk of IUU fishing.  These products could be specified on the basis of risk analysis. The great majority of participants also pointed out that it would be sensible to integrate the proposed certification system into existing import and export control systems.

The Ministers categorically agreed that sanctions should be severe and deterrent in nature. Nevertheless, many Member States expressed concern that the provisions on sanctions encroach upon the competence of the Member States and that the sanctions laid down are harsher than those permitted by the national legislation of the Member States. General concern was also expressed in respect of the harmonisation of administrative sanctions, given that Member States have different legal systems.  

On the basis of today’s discussion, the Slovenian Presidency aims to drive forward the debate on the proposal for a Regulation within the working bodies with a view to reaching political agreement at the June Council Meeting.

Adoption of the proposal for a Council Regulation providing for the adaptation of cod fishing quotas allocated to Poland in the Baltic Sea

The Ministers also unanimously adopted the Council Regulation providing for the adaptation of cod fishing quotas allocated to Poland in the Baltic Sea.

“The important aspect here is that Poland will, over a four-year period, repay the quotas exceeded and undertake to implement the National Action Plan on control and fleet restructuring in a consistent manner,” emphasised the Slovenian Minister. In this connection, he added, “The Commission has allowed some leeway. If Poland had been required to effect the repayment for the entire overshoot in a single year, the Polish fishing fleet would have suffered severe socio-economic consequences.”

The Regulation permits Poland to pay back the cod quota exceeded in 2007 in the next four years, starting this year, when Poland will need to pay back 10% of the amount overfished in 2007. In the following three years, the quota will be reduced by an amount equivalent to 30% of the amount overfished in 2007. The Commission will monitor the implementation of the plan and report annually thereon to the Council.

Ministers discuss Regulation on recovery of cod stocks

At the Council meeting, the Ministers for the first time also exchanged views on the new plan for the recovery of five cod stock areas, presented to them by the Commission. The main purpose of the proposed Regulation is to amend the cod recovery plan which has been in place since 2004 as it is no longer adequate, a fact already highlighted by scientists as well as fishermen.

In this regard, Mr Jarc expressed his satisfaction: »I am glad that even the Member States for whom cod fishing is of great economic importance have taken a positive and constructive approach to this dossier. On account of the great economic and social significance of cod fishing and the symbolic role of this fish species we must make every effort to make the cod recovery plan work. A lengthy debate in the Council’s working bodies may be expected, with cod fishing being of great economic importance for many Member States.”

The Council will continue to discuss the technical aspects of the proposed Regulation within its working parties.


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Date: 18.04.2008