Europêche and EAPO criticises statement on seafood traceability by the Fisheries Control Coalition, IUU Coalition and Wholesalers & Retailers

Europêche and EAPO criticises statement on seafood traceability from Fisheries Control Coalition, IUU Coalition and Wholesalers & Retailers

Europêche and the European Association of Fish Producers Organisation (EAPO) has criticised a statement on seafood traceability signed by the Fisheries Control Coalition, IUU Coalition and Wholesalers & Retailers.

Concerned by what they perceived as persisting overfishing and the impact of fishing on endangered species, wildlife and marine ecosystems, eleven European wholesalers and retailers called on EU Member States and the EU institutions to ensure sustainable fisheries management via their revision of the EU fisheries Control Regulation.

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The eleven wholesalers included Aldi, Lidl and Marks and Spencer but the coalition of Europêche and the EAPO have hit back at what it claims are misleading.

One example the fisheries coalition claims is misleading is the statement from the group that even though overfishing has declined in the North-East Atlantic and North Sea in recent years, that “This positive trend is going into reverse”.

Another issue that has angered the fisheries coalition is the call by the group for the implementation remote electronic monitoring, including cameras, on all EU fishing vessels above 12 metres and for those under 12 metres at risk of non-compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Europeche and the EAPO responded by saying:

“First, concerning the intensity of fishing, please read the latest press article from DG MARE whose headline states: “Fisheries management review: less overfishing, but further efforts to protect marine resources needed” Indeed, in the new Communication on the state of play of the CFP, the Commission notes that “the overall fishing mortality ratio fell below 1 in the North East Atlantic for the first time”.

Furthermore, “Stocks managed only by the EU, catch limits were set in line with MSY for all stocks where this ratio was available, except for Western Baltic herring”.

“Second, as regards the mandatory introduction of CCTV on board fishing vessels, we are sure you are well aware of the position of the fishing industry. It is true that some companies and fleets are doing efforts to install this technology to improve management and monitoring. However, a full imposition controlled by public authorities has different implications. On the one hand, we wonder how and why EU authorities should follow your advice and perform a risk analysis of non-compliance with the whole Common Fisheries Policy. On the other hand, we do not think cameras will solve the ill-conceived EU landing obligation which is not fit for the EU fisheries context. We feel that the EU decision-makers are trying to enforce a failed policy through intrusive control and monitoring tools. It is important to note that fishing nations such as Norway and Iceland, with landing obligation policies in place, are against the use of cameras and yet can perfectly control their fleets’ operations.

“Furthermore, the statement lays down that “there is a high risk of illegal [EU] fish and seafood in the supply chain.” We would like to get clarification on such a statement which casts a shadow of noncompliance over the EU fleet. Opposite to the suspicion and mistrust placed on the fishing industry in the statement, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) figures show that despite the increase of inspections at sea, the actual number of infringements has been reduced to an extremely low 4% in European waters (2% in the case of the Atlantic) in 2020. Therefore, there is already a culture of compliance in the EU and a working control system in place. Something we should all be proud of.”

The fisheries coalition then took issue with the fact that there are there was no mention in relation to the need to adopt clear rules relating traceability. They say:

“Third, even more striking is that, being a statement on seafood traceability, there is no mention to the need to adopt clear rules relating to the establishment and traceability of lots that ensure that all fish products, whether processed or fresh, are equally subject to strong traceability requirements after the first sale, regardless of their origin. Furthermore, there is no reference to improve the level of quality and granularity from the information required for seafood imported products under article 58.6 (in line with the MAC opinion on EU Fisheries Control System 05.11.2018).

“We understand the need to strike deals or common understandings with NGOs, but this should not be done at the expense of a different link of the value chain nor by communicating wrong data. This action will certainly damage consumers’ confidence on the sustainability of EU seafood and the image of the fishing sector. This is very disappointing and will not help to build a solid relationship of trust and cooperation across the supply chain.”

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