The European Commission wants to install cameras on fishing boats. Today’s Blue Deals Debate examines ‘How to Control Fishermen’

The addition of REM cameras on board fishing vessels is a debate that looks set to grow and it was one of the items on today’s Blue Deals Debate.

On the debate was Pim Visser, President of the EAPO, Monica Corrales, Deputy General of Legal Affairs at the Spanish General Secretary of Fisheries and Vania Vulperhorst from The debate was moderated by former PECH Committee Chair, Chris Davies.

The debate centred around new regulations the EU Commission is looking to implement on the fishing industry, one of which is the installation of cameras onboard fishing vessels as part of a remote electronic monitoring system (REM).

All three parties to the debate agreed the implementation of cameras as part of a monitoring system was useful but to what degree and how it would be beneficial was disputed.

Pim Visser said that the European Commission called the Commission’s proposal unnecessary.

He said “the Commission’s proposal is a drama. The current regulations need to be implemented rather than adding another layer of regulations.”

He believes more quayside inspections would have greater effect rather than officers in a control station watching TV monitors.

Monica Corrales, said that Spain will vote in favour of cameras when the Commission’s new regulations come in front of the Council of Ministers although, she also believed there was enough regulation on the fishing industry already. 

She told the attendess at the Blue Deals Debate at the debate that over the past five-years, Spain has worked hard at bringing it’s fleet in line with EU laws and through proper monitoring control systems such as a seven-day-a-week vessel monitoring centre, manned by 21 staff, the corrected recording and storage of logbooks, and increasing their inspectors on the ground to 160 personnel, they are now achieving a high rate of compliance.

Vanya Vulperhorst said that Oceana was in favour of cameras as a form of REM but in order for all Member States to comply with the Regulations, it would be important to enforce a level playing field when it came to applying penalty points. 

Chris Davies asked the panel about who should foot-the-bill for controlling the individual Member States waters and he used Ireland as an example where there are a huge number of the EU fleet fishes in Irish waters. Is it Ireland’s responsibility to pay for patrolling all the fishing boats in its waters?

Monica Coralles said she believed that it was up to all the Member States to contribute and collaborate to the patrolling of EU waters.

The question of ‘high grading’ was raised by Chris Davies who said that he recently read a report from Denmark where concerns about high grading was expressed after it was revealed that a fishing boat was discarding legally sized fish in order to keep larger more profitable fish.

One of the issues with cameras that was raised by Vanya Vulperhorst was the fact that it was difficult to distinguish what types of species of fish was being discarded.

It was also asked if small vessels which are currently excluded from monitoring controls should be included or excluded from REM. Currently, 89% of the EU fleet are fishing boats between 12-15 metres and contribute to 23% of the total catch.

The Oceana representative believed that all vessels should be monitored and said that it would be beneficial for small vessels to be involved in REM.

Pim Visser said that there should be a level playing field for all fishers whether they are catching 30,40 or 50kg. 

“They should all be treated the same,” he said.

In Denmark, the Fisheries Agency has selected 15 vessels which fish the Kattegat, the area of sea between east Denmark and western Sweden, for a project to install cameras onboard. The Agency aims to have cameras installed on all fishing vessels in the Kattegat by 2022.

This has been met with huge opposition from the Danish Fisheries Association who said they are willing to challenge the legislation in court.

REM has negative connotations for fishing communities everywhere but there is pressure globally for governments to eradicate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing which contributes to over 20% of all fish stocks caught across the world.

Blue Deals Debate – How to Control the Fishermen – Out at Sea Out of Sight?

by editor time to read: 6 min