Court report reveals ‘failure’ of EU fisheries management

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Overfishing linked to major shortcomings in the EU’s fisheries management system is endangering European fish stocks, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors.

The report, published on 4 December, cites unreliable catch data, inappropriate mechanisms for following up infringements and imposing sanctions and the limited effectiveness of inspections among the main shortcomings of the system. 

“If something is not done, this situation will become disastrous”, Kikis Kazamias, the report’s author, told the Financial Times. His report concluded that “the present control, inspection and sanction systems must be strengthened considerably” if EU fisheries policy is to achieve its sustainability objectives. 

The Court describes quota monitoring and quota uptake data provided by member states as “incomplete and unreliable”, and claims that the Commission is “not in a position to identify satisfactorily errors and misstatements in the data forwarded by the member states”. 

The Commission announced that it “broadly agrees” with the court’s conclusions and insisted that reviewing the legal framework for controls under the common fisheries policy (CFP) is “a strategic priority” for 2008. 

The Court of Auditors particularly questions whether the Commission’s total allowable catch and quota systems are functioning properly. The EU executive monitors these limits, but it is national governments who are responsible for enforcing them. 

“The inspection and sanctions systems are not working properly”, Kazamias said. 

His report says that member state-controlled inspection mechanisms do not ensure that infringements are “effectively prevented and detected”. Meanwhile, infringement proceedings imposed at national level “do not support the assertion that every infringement is followed up and still less that each one attracts a penalty”. 

Welcoming the report and accepting its findings, EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said: “The Commission is scheduled to table a new regulation on fisheries control in the second half on 2008 [and] will now work with the member states in the Council and all stakeholders […] to build a well functioning control framework for the CFP”. 

As well as the changes planned for 2008, the Commission is also set to introduce an electronic reporting system for European fishing boats in 2010. 

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