Thursday, 13 October 2011

Fisheries Committee calls for international action to fight illegal fishing

Illegal fishing not only seriously distorts markets for EU fishermen and consumers, but threatens to destroy the biodiversity of the world's oceans, warned the Fisheries Committee on Tuesday. An estimated 15% of world catches - between 11 and 26 million tonnes a year - come from illegal fishing. The committee's own-initiative report calls on the EU to promote international action, including stepping up inspections at sea and closing markets to illegal seafood, to maintain world fish stocks.
Given the high mobility of fish stocks and fishing fleets, illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing can only be effectively tackled by international cooperation, said MEPs, stressing that the EU, as the world's major fishing power and the largest importer of fisheries products, should play a key role in mobilising international community to combat IUU.

An estimated 15% of world catches - between 11 and 26 million tonnes a year - come from illegal fishing, making sustainable management of marine resources impossible, says the text. Besides threatening fish stock sustainability and food security, which affects both consumers and fishing communities illegal fishing constitutes unfair competition for fishermen who abide by the rules, says the text.

"The EU needs to do more to promote effective international cooperation to combat illegal fishing", said rapporteur Isabella Lövin (Greens/EFA, SE) stressing that "we need to ensure that ruthless operators cannot simply change the flag of their vessels to avoid their responsibilities. With many fish stocks around the world already perilously threatened, illegal fishing could be the final straw".

Sanctions against negligent states
The technology to monitor and prevent illegal fishing now exists - what is missing is the political will to do so, say MEPs. The committee urges the Commission and Member States to press the issue in international fora such as the WTO, and calls for sanctions against states that fail to meet their international obligations, e.g. by ensuring that vessels that fly their flags abide by the rules.
The committee also says that aid from the EU's generalised preference system should be conditional upon applicant countries' compliance with FAO and UN rules against IUU and that the Commission and Member States should step up their financial and technical support for surveillance programmes in the waters of developing countries.
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