Commissioner Sinkevičius has called for tighter fisheries controls on EU fishing boats

Commissioner Sinkevičius has called for tighter fisheries controls on EU fishing boats

EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius has said that he intends to make fishing vessels across the EU install onboard CCTV cameras in order to fulfil the obligations of the Common Fisheries Policy. 

Speaking at today’s plenary session of the European Parliament he condemned the PECH Committee plans to only install cameras onboard fishing vessels found guilty of or suspected of being in breach of the Common Fisheries Policy’s regulations. Instead, the Commissioner said he wanted to have all fishing vessels installed with the monitoring equipment. 

 The Commissioner’s goal for CCTV was described by Dutch MEP and PECH Committee member, Bert-Jan Ruissen who compared to George Orwell’s book ‘1984’ saying “In 1949 George Orwell demonstrated how horrible our society would become if the authorities could control and monitor everything. And nothing would be up to the individual. So obligatory cameras that can’t be the case. We know that there are difficulties with the landing obligation, but they cannot be solved by having more controls. 

Italian MEP, Rosanna Conte, who is also on the PECH Committee, took the Commissioner to task on recent events where the EU Commission has been accused of spreading disinformation through other Committees.

“We’re in a situation where the Commission has been using rather dodgy methods, providing misleading information to members of other committees other than the Fisheries Committee. So, I’d like the Commissioner to try and explain this.” 

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But Commissioner Sinkevičius refused to address this issue at the plenary session.

In his opening statement, the Commissioner also ruled out increasing the margin of tolerance saying that rules and regulations need to be tightened on the fishing industry.

He said “I see big risks in some of the amendments adopted by the Peche Committee, and also of newly tabled amendments to which I would like to call your attention.  

Let me briefly explain which elements have triggered of our particular concern.  

Firstly, there is a clear risk that we are backtracking compared to current rules. By relaxing current standards and I’m referring to the rules on the so-called margin of tolerance which sets the boundaries between what is considered to be legally and illegally caught and what is reported.  

Increasing the margin of tolerance or allowing generous derogation, would legalise underreporting and thus promote overfishing. Those amendments would actually erase 40 years of successive regulations and improvements in this field and would also largely benefit big operators as compared to small scale fisheries. 

Such relaxed standards would therefore undermine the Common Fisheries Policy, and the objective of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, and there would be risks of reputational damage for the EU at international level.  

How can we, on the one hand call for zero tolerance against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing by third countries if we do not show exactly the same zero tolerance approach in our own waters? 

The second risk concerns illegal and undocumented discards at sea and is related to the amendments of closed-circuit TV cameras. We urgently need effective control tools to properly enforce the landing obligation. The landing obligation was a key element in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2013 to finally end the wasteful practice of discards of unwanted fish.  

If we fail to introduce compulsory remote electronic monitoring via closed circuit TV cameras, we will continue to have illegal and undocumented discards of sensitive species. For the moment there is no alternative way of controlling it.  

The Commissioner also said that they will be seeking to clamp down on illegal engine capacities. He said: 

The third risk concerns our ability to effectively control engine power. The engine power of a fishing vessels largely determines the fishing capacity, meaning essentially how much and for how long a vessel can catch fish and therefore it is essential to be able to effectively monitor and control the engine power of fishing vessels to avoid manipulations and to prevent excessive fishing capacity.

Ireland’s Green MEP, Grace O’Sullivan backed the Commissioner’s calls for onboard CCTV, saying that it would create a level-playing field between all sizes of fishing vessels in the industry. 

The European Parliament will vote tomorrow on the amendments for fisheries control. 

by Oliver McBride

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