DG MARE’s Francesca Arena, has claimed that fishers and Member States cannot be trusted to implement the Landing Obligation
DG MARE’s Francesca Arena, Head of Unit Fisheries Control and Inspections has claimed that fishers and Member States cannot be trusted to implement the Landing Obligation, and certain fishing vessels, specifically demersal vessels, are configured to automatically discard catches once they are brought onboard.
The European Commission representative was talking on the Blue Deals Debate webinar, ‘Millions of tons of fish still thrown overboard: Should fishing be better controlled?’ which was aired on Wednesday, 07 April.
The Head of Unit Fisheries Control and Inspections was part of a group of four which included Valerie Tankink, Head of Unit for CFP and Structural Support, Policy Development and Coordination, Brian O’Riordan, Executive Secretary, Low Impact Fishers of Europe and Janica Borg, Marine biologist and policy advisor.
Ms Arena was answering a question from presenter, Chris Davis who had asked what information skippers are supposed to provide in their logbooks when it comes to the landing obligation at the moment and what are they not providing?
She answered, “The legislation is quite clear on what skippers need to provide irrespective of the landing obligation.
“What skippers are supposed to record is what they have caught and what they have discarded. So even if they don’t land fish but the fish is discarded, since the entry into force of the landing obligation, they should clearly record what they have discarded of more than 50KG per species.
“One thing I wanted to add to the discussion we just that before is on the issue about this selectivity of gears, but there is an issue about the configuration of fishing vessels. We have seen in our audits and inspections that certain vessels, and specifically the demersal vessels, are configured in such a way that discarding automatically is the normal practice. So, you need to have human intervention, actually to pick up the fish and to retain it onboard.”
Mr Davis challenged her on what she meant and asked her to explain the “set-up”.
In a bizarre claim, Ms Arena then claimed that these fishing boats were designed to automatically discard the catch once it is brought onboard.
Ms Arena said, “There are certain vessels which are set up in such a way that once you bring fish on board, they are automatically discarded unless there is a human intervention to retain the catches on board. I mean, this is a reflection of the past, of the era before the landing obligation that really changed completely the dynamics. So, that’s what I mean. I think there is much more to be done and the control, the focus of control has changed, so you need to know exactly what is happening on board and what is happening at the time of catches which we don’t know to a large extent today.”
Mr Davis then asked Ms Arena, “Do we trust fishermen to provide information, or do we think they have to be commanded and controlled in some way?”
The Head of Fisheries Control and Inspections answered that she did not believe fishermen or Member States were wholly or correctly implementing the landing obligation as it is prescribed in the Common Fisheries Policy.
“What we know so far. Is that, I mean, the evidence we have is that the landing obligation is currently not implemented.
“And that is, I mean clearly being said by the other speakers today. There is a great incentive not to apply the landing obligation and to keep discarding fish at sea. Of course, I mean we can’t compare all fisheries … but overall, from the information we have, there is clearly evidence that discarding is still taking place at sea to a large extent.
“As the Member States today are not applying effective control measures to implement it to control it and to enforce it of course, as long as you don’t have effective control and monitoring, it is very difficult to imagine that the landing obligation will be fully implemented.”
By Oliver McBride