Europêche claims that the issue of mandatory cameras onboard fishing vessels has overshadowed the revision of the fisheries control rules EU rules monitoring fishermen

EU fishermen feel new rules to introduce onboard remote electronic monitoring on fishing vessels is ‘intrusive’ claims Europêche

Europêche, the European Union’s largest fishing organisation, has criticised plans to introduce remote electronic monitoring on fishing vessels as being ‘intrusive’.

Under new rules agreed between the Council of the EU and the European Parliament, 70% of the existing rules of contrilloing fishing vessels wil be updated. The main changes include:

  • vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and electronic recording: to ensure compliance with the CFP, all fishing vessels will be tracked via a VMS (for certain smaller vessels, these rules will apply as of 2029) and will be required to record their catches via electronic means.
  • recreational fisheries: recreational fishers catching specific species will need to undergo registration and to record and report their catches via an electronic system.
  • landing obligation: remote electronic monitoring tools will be used to ensure that unwanted catches are brought to shore.
  • revision of the sanctioning system: minimum levels of administrative financial penalties will be set for serious infringements of the CFP rules, as an alternative to criminal sanctions; a list of common criteria for some of the listed serious infringements will be agreed at EU level.
  • improved traceability along the supply chain: it will be easier to trace fresh fishery and aquaculture products (including processed products following a Commission study and a five-year transition phase).

Some of the main measures can be summarised as follows:

New technologies, such as on-board cameras, and improvements in traceability should help ensuring better compliance and increased consumer protection

Negotiators from Parliament and the Swedish Council Presidency reached an agreement on Tuesday on an update of Common Fisheries Policy rules, particularly regarding the monitoring fisheries activities and the traceability of fish products.

According to the agreed text, information on fresh and frozen fish will be fully accessible, including digitally, to safeguard food safety and consumer interests. This system of digitalised traceability will also be extended to cover processed fish in five years.


Increased monitoring and tracking of all vessels

EU vessels of 18 metres or more that may pose a risk of non-compliance will have on-board remote electronic monitoring (REM) systems, including closed-circuit television (CCTV), to guarantee respect for the so-called landing obligation, which aim at encouraging fishers to avoid unwanted catches.

Under the revised rules EU countries will have to put in place systems to track the position and movement of all EU fishing vessels, including those smaller than 12 metres. Member states can, however, exempt small-scale vessels from the tracking obligation under limited and justified circumstances until 2030.


Sanctions and recreational fisheries

To overcome the significant differences between EU countries concerning the issue of sanctions, MEPs and the Council decided that the value of fishery products caught by a vessel will define the minimum level of a fine applied to it in case of a serious rules violation. If there is repeated infringement, the penalty will be at least twice the average value of the products.

EU countries will be tasked to check recreational fisheries’ compliance and determine appropriate sanctions. EU countries will also have to introduce a data collection system, including catches by non-commercial activities, such as those organised by tourism organisations or sports competitions. Recreational fisheries that sell catches weighing over 10kgs or more than €50 will be considered in serious infringement.


Margins of tolerance

Negotiators agreed that the margin of tolerance – the difference between the estimate of the fish caught and the result of the weighting in the landing port – will be of 10% per species. A margin of tolerance of 20% will apply for any other species on board that not exceeds 100kg. For small pelagic, industrial fisheries and tropical tuna, the margin of tolerance will be 10% of the total quantity registered, under strict control conditions. Small-scale fishers will have a margin of tolerance of 20%, as it is more difficult to estimate the size of small catches.


Europêche Reaction

Reacting to the new rules, Daniel Voces, Managing Director of Europêche said, “We appreciate the efforts made by the Parliament and the Council to reach compromises and introduce flexibilities for the implementation of the future control rules. However, the introduction of cameras and other control devices have been harshly criticised by the sector as being intrusive. A positive development was that live streaming was avoided. It is now time to check whether the political agreement sets the foundations for a clear and efficient system that guarantees a level playing field, workable rules, acceptable control devices and overall makes life easier for fishers”.

Anne-France Mattlet, Europêche Tuna Director, commented: “The control rule on margin of tolerance is currently incompatible with the conditions and specificities inherent to the fishing operations in the tropical tuna purse seine fishery. We hope that the new framework makes the margin of tolerance operational, stops unfairly penalising only EU operators and that the subsequent implementing legislation is quickly adopted and proportionate”.

As next steps, the resulting political agreement has to be officially endorsed by the Council and the Parliament in second reading in the next few months. As for the entry into force of the new rules, for some of them such as the CCTV or the engine power monitoring devices, they will become mandatory in 4 years’ time.

Follow The Fishing Daily