In a mixed bag of voting outcomes, the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee (PECH) has called for more transparency around fisheries activities and traceability to seafood supply chains, while simultaneously weakening the existing rules for controlling EU fishing activities.

The Committee voted on a package of amendments to the EU fisheries control system, which have been under their voting consideration since last Monday. The result of the voting process is a significant number of loopholes that will make it more difficult to manage fisheries sustainably and make it easier for illegal catches to enter the EU market, putting the future of fisheries and marine health at risk.

In a move that signals a clear lack of ambition to improve at-sea monitoring and data collection, MEPs also failed to ensure that cameras will be placed on fishing vessels. By voting to retain a voluntary regime for their use - for which uptake has been extremely low - authorities will continue to be left without the high-quality fisheries and environmental data needed to ensure that EU fisheries are managed sustainably and conducted legally. 

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The positive outcomes from today’s vote on the EU fisheries Control Regulation − including on vessel tracking, catch reporting and sanctions − could mark a pivotal step to secure sustainable seafood and healthy marine ecosystems in the EU, provided next month’s European Parliament plenary vote fixes the loopholes created.

On behalf of the The EU Fisheries Control Coalition, Vanya Vulperhorst, Campaign Director Illegal Fishing and Transparency at Oceana in Europe said, “We strongly welcome the PECH Committee’s position to require tracking systems and catch reporting for all EU fishing vessels. But such efforts to help ensure healthy fish stocks must not be undermined by weakening the rules which oblige fishers to count what they catch. In the upcoming plenary Session, MEPs must align the future Control Regulation with the EU’s blue ambition and the EU Green Deal”. 

Andrea Ripol, Fisheries Policy Officer at Seas At Risk said, “No one wants to eat fish that comes at the expense of killing dolphins and seabirds. By rejecting mandatory onboard cameras, MEPs have voted to deepen this stain on our seafood supply chains. If the European Parliament is serious about meeting the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy targets, it must amend this oversight in the upcoming vote in plenary.”

Marta Marrero Martin, Director of Ocean Governance at The Nature Conservancy said, “Today’s vote has ignored the fact that fishers are already able to install cameras on their vessels voluntarily, yet the vast majority decide not to do so. Until these systems are required across the fleet, authorities will remain without the high-quality data needed to ensure our fisheries are managed legally and sustainably. We call upon MEPs to reverse this decision at plenary. The EU should lead global fisheries management and control by example and not lag behind”.

Katrin Vilhelm Poulsen, Senior Seafood Policy Officer at WWF said, “Traceability is a cornerstone for sustainable seafood supply chains. We commend the Committee vote confirming the EU’s commitment to this value and call on all MEPs to do the same in next month’s plenary.”

Nick Goetschalckx, Fisheries Lawyer at ClientEarth said, “Today’s vote was not just about writing rules, it was also about ensuring that these rules will be effectively implemented and enforced afterwards. The important steps MEPs took today for more transparency on fisheries control activities and towards a standardised sanctions regime across the EU will ensure environmental accountability, but only provided they are upheld in plenary next month.”

Positive outcomes from the PECH Committee vote include: 

  • Vessel monitoring systems to be installed on all EU fishing vessels
  • Mandatory reporting of all seafood catches
  • Standards for sanctions to be harmonised across the EU
  • Member State activities on fisheries controls to be published annually and available to the public 
  • Better monitoring of Marine Protected Areas
  • Traceability of all seafood products from point-of-catch to point-of-sale

The negative aspects, weakening of current provisions and loopholes created by the Fisheries Committee vote include:

  • No mandatory requirement for uptake of onboard cameras across the EU fleet, marking a failure to improve fisheries data, ensure compliance and monitor bycatch of sensitive species
  • No mandate to report incidental catches of sensitive species and impacts of fisheries to sensitive habitats
  • Weakening the rules of reporting and controlling the amount of fish caught and landed, which significantly increases opportunities for illegal fishing
  • Weakening the rules for weighing catches, making it easier to under-declare
  • Failing to remove Member States’ ability to veto submission of information on their control efforts

In next month’s plenary vote, the European Parliament is called upon to:

  1. Lock in the positive outcomes from the PECH Committee vote for vessel monitoring systems, reporting and sanctions;
  2. Introduce mandatory measures for onboard cameras (including CCTV), strengthen transparency provisions, and require measures to report and prevent bycatch of sensitive species; and 
  3. Close the loopholes introduced by the PECH Committee to weaken fisheries controls, including for rules on catch reporting and verification. 

ENDS

The EU Fisheries Control Coalition – The Environmental Justice Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Oceana, Seas At Risk, and WWF, together with ClientEarth, The Fisheries Secretariat, Our Fish and Sciaena – is working to ensure that fisheries management in the EU safeguards ocean health and marine life for generations to come.

Notes to editors: 

The fisheries Control Regulation is the cornerstone of how fisheries are controlled and monitored in the EU. This helps to ensure seafood is caught within sustainable limits and follows legal procedures, with direct impacts for Member States, fishers and consumers, as well as the health of marine ecosystems. 

The current revision process of the Regulation offers opportunities to make fisheries management more sustainable, address the lack of transparency on how the EU fleet is regulated and, as a result, increase profits for the sector. In addition, a strong future Control Regulation is key to stopping illegal fishing activities, which hurt fishers operating within legal boundaries.

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