The European Commission today welcomed the report published by the Court of Auditors on data collection, control and enforcement under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The Commission had already decided that the review of the CFP control legal framework would be a strategic priority of it 2008 Work Programme, and the Court’s report strengthens the case for a major reform of control policy under the CFP. The Court conducted an extensive audit in these areas, which covered both the Commission’s own functions, and the way in which CFP rules are implemented by the fisheries management authorities in six Member States (Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom).
CFP control, data collection and enforcement mechanisms are implemented in Member States within a framework laid down at EU level. The Court found substantial weaknesses in these areas, which it concluded were sufficient to jeopardise the proper functioning of a fisheries management policy based on catch limitations. The Commission broadly agrees with the conclusions of the Court, which support its position that the 2002 Reform of the CFP has not gone far enough in these areas. The Commission has already proposed legislation which should resolve some of the problems which the Court highlights, in particular in the field of data collection. The Commission now looks forward to working with the Member States and all stakeholders to address the outstanding issues, and to ensure that the CFP provides a truly sustainable framework for European fisheries.
European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg, commented: “The Court’s Report has come at a critical moment. The Commission is scheduled to table a new Regulation on Fisheries Control in the second half of 2008. Most of the Court’s conclusions coincide closely with our own analysis. The Commission will now work with the Member States in the Council and all stakeholders, using the Court’s conclusions, to build a well functioning control framework for the CFP.”
The 2002 Reform of the CFP was driven by the need to modernise and strengthen the regulatory framework to make it truly fit-for-purpose, and the Commission has since then made several proposals in the specific areas addressed by the Court of Auditors. Some of the technical problems with data collection and management highlighted by the Report have been addressed in the recently adopted regulation on electronic reporting systems. The Commission’s commitment to establishing adequate control and enforcement tools is demonstrated by the recently adopted Regulation on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, which generalises the principle of ‘net-to-plate’ control.
The Court of Auditors chose to examine the specific areas of data collection, inspection and enforcement under the CFP, because it had identified them as essential to the proper functioning of any fisheries management policy based on catch limitations.
The Court concluded in particular that:
- Fishing data collected in Member States are unreliable and incomplete, and are inadequate as a basis for setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas.
- National inspection procedures to detect and prevent infringements are ineffective.
- The penalties imposed by national authorities when infringements are detected are not sufficiently onerous to act as a deterrent.
The Court also points that the Commission lacks the powers to bring timely and persuasive pressure to bear on Member States when they fail to respect their CFP obligations, and the means to effectively verify the data provided by the Member States or evaluate their inspection performances.
The Court concludes that without proper functioning of data collection, control and enforcement, it is impossible to implement an effective policy based on catch limitations.
The Commission broadly welcomes the conclusions of the report, which largely coincide with its own analysis of the weaknesses of the CFP in these areas. Many of the weaknesses identified by the Court in the Report could have been addressed had the Commission been empowered to act effectively in these areas.
The Court also argues that overcapacity in the fleet leads to overfishing and underreporting, and regrets the fact that the Reform of the CFP has left the responsibility for reducing capacity with the Member States. The Commission believes that incentives to reduce overcapacity are provided at EU level in the form of financial support to decommissioning schemes and that the former policy of fishing capacity control had proved to be ineffective.
The overhaul of the CFP Control Regulation is scheduled as a priority for 2008, and the Commission continues to reflect in more general terms on how the 2002 Reform should be continued