EAPO and Europeche have written to Spanish MEP, Clara Aguilera on concerns regarding margin of tolerance under Fisheries Control Regulations

EAPO and Europeche have written to Spanish MEP, Clara Aguilera on concerns regarding margin of tolerance under Fisheries Control Regulations

The European Alliance of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO) and Europeche have written to Spanish MEP, Ms Clara Aguilera on issues regarding the revision of Fisheries Control Regulations.

Fisheries Control regulations are currently under review and will be brought before the European Paliament to be voted on.

The EAPO and Europeche has expressed their concerns over the current margin of tolerance why they say is leaving their fishers vulnerable to heavy sanctions if they are perceived to cross that threshold by accident.

The main area of anxiety is Article 14 in Regulation No. 1224/2009 Completion and submission of the fishing logbook:

  • 14.1: Without prejudice to specific provisions contained in multiannual plans, masters of Community fishing vessels of 10 metres’ length overall or more shall keep a fishing logbook of their operations, indicating specifically all quantities of each species caught and kept on board above 50 kg of live-weight equivalent.
  • 14.3: The permitted margin of tolerance in estimates recorded in the fishing logbook of the quantities in kilograms of fish retained on board shall be 10 % for all species.
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The present rules and background

  • The general rules of the Control Regulation1 stipulates that fishers shall record estimates of the quantity of catches of each species above 50 kg in the logbook within a tolerance margin of 10 %.
  • In fisheries for small pelagic species and species for industrial purposes, where catches are kept on board in bulk – fresh and unsorted, this has proved to be an impossible rule to comply with as it is not feasible to estimate marginal by-catches in landings up to 3,000 tons. 50 kg makes up 0.0015% of 3,000 tons, where the current rules thus require fishers to assess the content down to +/- 5 kg.
  • It is imperative for the fishing industry to achieve a solution to this issue since it is not legitimate to have rules, with which the fishers – even with the best intentions – in reality cannot comply.
  • Moreover, a solution is possible without risking the accuracy of the quantities used for the management of fishing opportunities, i.e. the basis for counting catches against the national quotas as this is ensured by the weighing at the landing and/or the operator’s representative samples taken at each landing.
Proposal for a new control regulation
  • The draft proposal on amending the EU Control Regulation includes a provision, which is intended to address this issue. The proposal is not to apply the tolerance limitations for catches of species, which represent less than 1 % in weight of all species landed and whose total weight is less than 100 kg.
  • However, this is not considered to solve the problem. In these fisheries with unsorted catches, each fishing operation may include catches up to 600 to 800 tonnes fish and the total catches on board at the end of the fishing trip may be up to 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes. When catches are pumped on board, this takes place with speeds up to 15 tonnes fish per minute, making it difficult to sample.
  • On board, catches are kept in tanks or in bulk. Sampling after the catches have been taken on board is also difficult due to the way different fish species float in the tanks/holds. Thus, under these circumstances it is impossible to take samples, which will present a robust base for the fishers’ estimates in the logbook and which will ensure compliance with the permitted margin of tolerance.

The above issue is addressed in the joint letter from the EAPO and Europeche to Ms Aguilera. It reads:

“We are writing to you on your capacity as rapporteur on the revision of the Fisheries Control Regulation. The European fishing industry represented by the signatory organisations of this letter sincerely appreciate your time and dedication to modernise and simplify the current fisheries control system. Our fleets would like to recall their commitment to an effective control policy, which guarantees the proper implementation of EU legislation and the achievement of the common objectives of the CFP. However, the current provisions relating to the margin of tolerance are penalising our ship owners, particularly the tuna industry, who are facing extreme sanctions, the allocation of points and even risking losing their licenses due to the impossibility to comply with a rule that is unworkable for the industry in its customary and current form.

In this context, given the technical nature and the importance of the EU’s control policy as one of the main pillars of the CFP, due attention should be given by EU policy-makers to facilitate the implementation of the system that should not hinder fishing operations nor unfairly punish fishermen.

Given the operational specificities of these fleets that struggle to accurately estimate the catch composition when the catch is hauled on-board, we consider that a different formulation of the provisions on the margin of tolerance would enable adequate reporting, monitoring and control of catches while ensuring the regular activity of our vessels. For this purpose, we truly appreciate the steps taken by the Parliament to address this issue. Nevertheless, attached to this letter, we would like to suggest a simplified formulation to the latest version of the compromise amendment circulated that would work for all the fleets affected.

The main idea is that for catches which are landed unsorted for the tropical tuna, small pelagic and industrial fisheries, the permitted margin of tolerance in estimates recorded in the fishing logbook or landing/transhipment declaration of the quantities in kilograms of fish retained on board should be 10 % of the total quantity retained on board, without restrictions per species.

This rule would not come as a novelty since it is already enshrined and in force in EU Law, as laid down by Art. 13 of the multiannual management plan for the Baltic, that reads as follows:

“By way of derogation from Article 14(3) of Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009, for catches which are landed unsorted the permitted margin of tolerance in estimates recorded in the fishing logbook of the quantities in kilograms of fish retained on board shall be 10 % of the total quantity retained on board.”

In this line, the Pelagic Advisory Council in 2018 recommended the extension of this rule to all fisheries in the EU given the difficulty to implement the margin of tolerance provisions for catches landed unsorted.

The links to the videos below duly explain the problem at hand:

https://fiskeriforening.dk/english-version/control-regulation/

https://www.dropbox.com/s/y8jcabj7pbxoc1h/_Dificultad Escandallo_.mp4?dl=0

Furthermore, the two Member States with tuna purse-seine fleets – France and Spain -, recognized in the 2015 and 2011 respectively (see letters enclosed), the impossibility to apply the 10% margin of tolerance for each species. Both governments communicated this to the operators, interpreting article 14.3 of Regulation 1224/2009, as it reads, the margin of tolerance “…of 10% for all species” (i.e. the total quantity of fish retained on board). This was supported by strong technical evidences (see enclosed IEO-AZTI-IRD-IFREMER scientific study) that clearly state the impossibility of species’ estimates with a 10% accuracy in tropical tuna purse-seining.

Against this background, we consider that the highest priority should be given by the European Parliament to overcome the difficulties originated from this rule.”

Ms Aguilera, who is the Andalusian representative on the PECH Committee, last week told the “How to bring EU fisheries into the digital age and deliver on EU Green Deal” webinar that the European Parliament vote on implementing new regulations for fisheries controls will be delayed until the third week of January 2021. Ms Aguilera informed the Committee that due to the impact of the coronavirus, the Parliament is finding it difficult to arrange a time to hear the debate but they are hoping to have a hearing in the third week in January 2021.

One of the issues Ms Aguilera said they faced in compiling new regulations was the adoption of the logbook.

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
MMG Welding Killybegs

Joint letter issued on Margin of Tolerance under Fisheries Control Regulations

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