Fisheries: Questions and Answers on New French Control Action Plan
Brussels -- What does this action plan seek to achieve?
Today's action plan focuses on the French catch registration system in order to ensure that the data available to national controllers is complete, reliable and timely. It consolidates measures already taken by France and also includes measures such as the development of IT tools.
Catch data are reported by fishermen so that the control authorities can monitor fishing quotas and prevent overfishing. A solid and reliable catch reporting will make sure that fish stocks are exploited sustainably, by contributing to the health of the stocks, and therefore bring substantial benefit to fishermen.
Uniform enforcement of quotas and effort means that fishermen from different European countries enjoy a level playing field on the fishing grounds which they share: fishermen will thus have access to sustainable fisheries resources in an equitable way, based on a timely and accurate control of their activity.
Which other countries have an action plan in place?
Before today's announcement action plans have already been put in place with Malta, Spain, Italy, and Latvia whilst three others are in the pipeline for Portugal, Bulgaria and Romania.
The Maltese Action Plan, adopted in 2011, seeks to improve the control systems for Bluefin Tuna due to identified shortcomings in catch monitoring. Malta's was the first administrative inquiry followed by an action plan jointly monitored with the Commission.
Since the fishery concerned was subject to a recovery plan, the actions in the action plan increased the overall compliance of the EU with ICCAT rules and produced a management plan with control measures approved by the international community. These include real time monitoring and a significant deployment of inspectors.
The action plan puts Malta in line with ICCAT's long term recovery plan for Bluefin tuna.
The Spanish action plan, adopted in 2012, was triggered by the problems identified in their catch registration system, in particular in relation to the late collection of control data, the lack of coordination between control authorities and data reliability.
With the quota system depending on accurate data to avoid overfishing, the Commission worked with the Spanish authorities to improve the operations of their systems. Based on the action plan the Spanish authorities have set up a coordination mechanism between the central authorities and the Autonomous Communities. They have totally reshaped their catch registration system and have developed effective IT tools. Other concrete actions taken by Spain include the restriction of fishing possibilities for vessels having exceeded their quota, for instance in the hake fishery.
The focus of inspections in Spain has been significantly improved by risk driven control strategy and joint operations between the Autonomous Communities inspectors, Guardia civil, Navy and the state fishery inspection services. This has significantly reduced the risk of overfishing mackerel compared to previous years.
Italy's Action Plan, adopted in 2013, focuses on overcoming some dysfunctioning in the monitoring, control and inspection of its fishing activities under the CFP identified in 2010 and 2011, including the use of illegal driftnets.
It focuses mainly on control systems for highly migratory species. Intensified control activities are therefore conducted for the large pelagic fisheries, both within the framework of the Bluefin tuna recovery plan and the swordfish closed seasons.
Driftnets sanctioning procedures were also incorporated into the action plan which is currently in its first stage of implementation.
Following Commission audits revealing shortcomings in Latvia's control system, in particular in terms its administrative structure and resource availability, an action plan was jointly designed with the Latvian authorities.
Latvia's action plan, adopted in 2013, has achieved significant progress in allocating additional human resources and setting administrative, legal and technical structures to implement CFP rules. IT structures have also improved and control procedures streamlined.
An administrative inquiry is ongoing in Bulgaria and in Romania to tackle shortcomings identified in its turbot fishery. The objective it to gain a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of these failures in order to identify concrete remedial actions that will be carried out in an agreed timetable. Depending on the outcome, action plans could be adopted in due course.
How are actions plans set up? What if a Member State does not follow through with its Action Plan commitments?
Where there is no, or insufficient, action taken by the Member State within the deadlines fixed in the action plan, the Commission could start infringement proceedings.
Who does what in the EU fisheries control system?
Fisheries rules and control systems are agreed on at EU level, but implemented by the national authorities and inspectors of EU Member States. The day-to-day enforcement of the rules is for the national authorities: national inspectorates monitor for instance what gear is being used, or how many tonnes of fish are caught and then landed.
To encourage closer collaboration and exchange of best practices, the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) in Vigo, Spain, organises joint control campaigns, where inspectors from different EU countries work together.
The Commission has its own body of inspectors, but they do not police the fishermen directly. Rather, their role is to inspect the control systems put in place by the Member States, and make sure that the CFP rules are enforced effectively and fairly across the whole of the EU. In that capacity they also participate in national inspections.
What has the Commission done on control since the Regulation came into force?
The Commission has tackled non-compliance issues by issuing 45 warning pilot letters to Member States previously identified in preliminary infringement proceedings. Most of these cases have been satisfactorily resolved.
However, systemic control deficiencies identified in audits cannot always be addressed effectively in individual basis, and require an action plan with a set of complementary corrective measures. The results of this work can be seen today with the French action plan, the previous adoption of similar plans in Malta, Spain, Italy and Latvia, and the three plans in preparation with regard to Portugal, Bulgaria and Romania. All of these constitute concrete, detailed roadmaps for the improvement of control systems.
The aim was to move away from cases involving structural issues requiring adaptations to complex administrative systems to a more cooperative and collaborative way of working with Member States than in more traditional infringement cases, which can take a longer period of time before yielding results on the ground. Action Plans are one way of demonstrating this approach. In order to be able to assess the reality on the ground the Commission also carries out both announced and unannounced inspections in Member States.
Other important milestones in the development of the Control Regulation include coordinated inspections by means of Joint Deployment Plans and data exchange programmes between Member States and the European Fisheries Control Agency. Moreover, a new a Fisheries Expert Group on Compliance will be established, following the CFP Reform, to allow the Commission and Member States to strengthen and simplify control implementation in an open and transparent way.
Is control funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund?
Yes, the new EMFF € 690 million control budget almost doubles the amount made available for control. Out of this amount, € 580 million has been ring-fenced to support the development of control programmes such as these action plans.
Will the Control Regulation be soon revised?
The Control Regulation stipulates that every five years, Member States report to the Commission on the application of this Regulation after which the Commission will draw up a report to be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council. Member States are therefore due to send their first report to the Commission by 1st January 2015. The first report and evaluation by the Commission is therefore scheduled for 2015