The ‘Irish control plan’ has been revoked by due to the absence of effective implementation
The EU Commission has revoked ‘the control plan’, a derogation which allowed the Irish fishing industry to weigh fishery products after transport from the place of landing.
This news has come as a bombshell to the fishing industry as the Commission’s decision will have ramifications for the pelagic, whitefish and shellfish sectors and it comes immediately after another blow to the pelagic sector earlier this year.
The decision will have resounding impacts for both large and small-scale fishers who will now have to weigh their catches at the point of landing as provided for under Article 60 of Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009.
Under the control plan, Article 61(1) of the Regulation, Ireland could permit fisheries products to be weighed, instead of directly on landing, after transport from the place of landing, provided that they were transported to a destination on the territory of the Member State concerned.
Now that this Article has been revoked, Irish fishing vessels will have to weigh their catch upon landing under Article 60(2) of the Regulation.
The Commission’s decision will take immediate effect and will be implemented by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).
Earlier this year, part of the same audit found that the Irish pelagic sector had overfished a combination of mackerel, blue whiting and horse mackerel (scad) by over 42,000 tonnes between 2012 and 2016 which the Commission has ruled will be claimed back from future quota allocations.
The Commission has also seized €25 million in EMFF funding, with a total of €37.2 million in danger of being lost to the Irish fishing sector if irregularities are not corrected.
The Commission made the decision to revoke the control plan after a 2018 audit in Ireland aimed at monitoring the implementation of the weighing of fisheries products, identified ‘irregularities which the Commission says was “also confirmed by the administrative inquiry conducted by the Irish competent authority” being the SFPA. The believe they uncovered that Ireland failed to ensure effective implementation of the control plan in accordance with the Regulation which legislated for it.
The Commission claim that their audit found that “the operators did not have in place a “weighing system fit for purpose” as provided for under point 5 of the control plan” and accuses operators of “manipulation of weighing systems”.
The Commission wrote that, “Moreover, although aware of those shortcomings, Ireland did not take appropriate measures to address such noncompliance, in particular by withdrawing the permission to weigh after transport as foreseen in point 8 of the control plan.
“Consequently,” they claim, “the plan does not minimise the risk of the systematic manipulation of weighing pelagic catches in Ireland and the under declaration of catches by operators.”
The Commission document claims that Ireland could not guarantee an effective control of landed quantities of catches and minimise the risk of noncompliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy and the failure to ensure appropriate weighing also put at risk the accuracy of the data reported, which the Commission says is important for control purposes and monitoring of the uptake of fishing quotas.
The Commission document says that due to the absence of the effective implementation of the control plan, derogation from the basic requirement set out in Article 60(2) of the Regulation, should no longer be granted and as a consequence, the approval of the Irish control plan should be revoked.
The loss of the Irish Control Plan will not affect other EU fishing vessels landing into Irish ports, such as Spanish and French vessels, who can continue to operate as normal under the EU Regulation.
The Chief Executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, Seán O’Donoghue has said, both he and his members are completely stunned and extremely annoyed at changes in practices around weighing catch which have been foisted on the industry with immediate effect from 16th April last, with zero consultation.
“We are simply flabbergasted that this bewildering move which has such a direct and draconian impact on all aspects of Irish fisheries, could be considered without any advance notice. Moreover, we have not been given access to any information to justify this crude action. In fact, we have been explicitly denied access to any reports or correspondence between the Commission, DAFM and the SFPA on this issue.”
“This ‘bombshell’ has the potential to have a massive negative impact on the pelagic, demersal and shellfish sectors and will not be accepted by industry. We are calling on our line Minister and wider Government as well as the SFPA, to immediately put right this ludicrous scenario which they should not have created in the first instance,” stated Mr O’Donoghue.
by Oliver McBride