25th Mar 2023

EU signals 'zero tolerance' against illegal fishing

The European Union has said a new system of fisheries control is finally in place, an attempt to stamp out the illegal fishing which contributes to the fragile nature of the bloc's fish stocks.

Common inspection rules and a new points system to punish boats who fish illegally are among the key measures in the package, detailed by the European Commission in Brussels on Tuesday (12 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The new rules are designed to make it harder for unscrupulous crews to land illegal catches (Photo: Irish Presidency)

Under the points system, which will enter into force on 1 January 2012, repeat offenders will see their licenses withdrawn.

Member states police their own waters under the EU's common fisheries policy, with critics saying the former system of fragmented rules was applied with varying degrees of rigour, making it harder for honest fishermen.

The commission now hopes that electronic tracking of all fisheries-related data and automatic cross-checking will make it much harder for crews to profit from illegal landings.

"If we can't enforce our own rules, this undermines the credibility of the whole common fisheries policy, no matter how sound it may be," fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said.

"We now have a comprehensive system of control and enforcement and I expect compliance with EU fishing rules to improve from now on. We can no longer allow even a small minority of fishermen to ignore the rules, and get away with it," added the Greek politician.

The commission claims the new system will allow for control 'from net to plate', by covering all stages of the supply chain.

Roughly two-thirds of Europe's fish stocks are overfished, with species like the Mediterranean bluefin tuna on the brink of collapse. Previous reforms of the EU's common fisheries policy have failed to sufficiently align fishing capacity with stock numbers, with growing pressure to radically improve the situation during next year's overhaul.

At the same time, politicians from fishing constituencies have been loath to completely cut off the EU's roughly 140,000 fishermen, leading the Union to negotiate a number of bilateral fishing agreements with non-EU countries.

A decision on whether to renew the EU's controversial accord with Morocco is currently under discussion, with human rights groups opposing the move due to Rabat's annexation of the Western Sahara region to its south, together with its rich fishing grounds.

Rough thirty percent of fish caught by EU-flagged boats now comes from outside the bloc's waters, with the stricter implementing rules detailed on Tuesday also applying to these vessels fishing further afield.

Greenpeace welcomed the commission's announcement. "The reckless disregard for rules and scientific advice by too many officials favours companies that cheat and cut corners," said the group's EU oceans policy director Saskia Richartz.

"The Commission is right to focus on enforcement, but effective rules are just as important. The forthcoming reform of European fisheries must deliver a new rulebook that protects our oceans and ensures the sustainability of fishing." she added.


EU subsidies fuel Spain’s ravenous fleet

Decades of overfishing have left Europe’s fish stocks in peril and its fishermen in poverty. It’s an impasse paid for by EU taxpayers. Yet a proposed revision of the EU’s fishing law, hailed as sweeping reform, is rapidly losing momentum.

'Final warning' to act on climate change, warns IPCC

The United Nations's report — synthesising years of climate, biodiversity, and nature research — paints a picture of the effects of global warming on the natural world, concluding there is "no time for inaction and delays."

EU launches critical raw materials act

The EU presented its strategy to ensure access to critical raw materials needed for clean technologies. No country should supply more than 65 percent of any key material. Currently, China dominates almost all rare earth metal markets.

'The race is on', EU Commission warns on green tech

The EU Commission is expected to detail its plans on Thursday as part of the Net-Zero Industry Act on industrial incentives, and the Critical Raw Materials Act, which seeks to reduce EU over-reliance on China.


EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict

Solar panels, wind-turbines, electric vehicle batteries and other green technologies require minerals including aluminium, cobalt and lithium — which are mined in some of the most conflict-riven nations on earth, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Kazakhstan.

Latest News

  1. EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict
  2. Okay, alright, AI might be useful after all
  3. Von der Leyen pledges to help return Ukrainian children
  4. EU leaders agree 1m artillery shells for Ukraine
  5. Polish abortion rights activist vows to appeal case
  6. How German business interests have shaped EU climate agenda
  7. The EU-Turkey migration deal is dead on arrival at this summit
  8. Sweden worried by EU visa-free deal with Venezuela

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality
  5. Promote UkraineInvitation to the National Demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on 25.02.2023
  6. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us