Any regulation has to be simple and easy to enforce. Two characteristics conspicuous by their absence in the current regulatory framework.
EU Proposes Penalties To Combat Illegal Fishing [PlanetArk]
BRUSSELS - Europe's fisheries chief proposed toughening EU rules on Friday to crack down on illegal fishing, largely blamed for depleting fish stocks, by using a penalty point system similar to that for driving offences.
European Union Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg, who has often complained that existing controls are inadequate, proposed tightening up controls on inspections, monitoring and traceability requirements for the fishing industry.
Many species of fish in European waters, especially cod, haddock and hake, been severely depleted by years of overfishing and some are at risk of disappearing entirely.
Under the new points system, if a certain number of offences are racked up over three years -- for example, if trawlers use small-mesh nets to trap extra fish, or fish in closed seasons -- holders of fishing permits would lose their right to fish in EU waters, after suspension periods of six and then 12 months.
"Control and enforcement should be the cornerstone of the Common Fisheries Policy. Instead, it is our Achilles' heel," Borg told a news conference, adding that a 'collective failure' to implement the rules made a mockery of EU fishing controls.
The current system, dating back to 1993 and amended more than a dozen times, was inefficient, expensive and too complex, he said -- and it was now time to ensure that 'those who break the rules do not reap the profits of their illegal actions'.
Despite spending 400 million euros ($500 million) a year on fishing controls, the EU still has unreliable data on fish catches, the EU Commission says.
EU fisheries ministers will have to agree to the new measures before they can enter into force.
The points system would apply to the fishing vessel, and to the crew's master and officers. Offences would be collated in a points register in the ship's home country.
The new rules would apply to EU vessels even if they fish outside European waters. They would also cover non-EU vessels within the European Union. However, any existing bilateral arrangements would take precedence.
Borg also proposed making it compulsory for EU countries to inspect fish landings, processing, transport and marketing, as well as to monitor criteria such as a vessel's fishing capacity and its engine power.
If a country breaks the rules, its EU subsidies could be cut or suspended, annual catch quotas reduced and even fishing forbidden in its waters, Borg said.
Under Borg's proposal, EU inspectors could check vessels outside their national waters, and officials from one country could inspect the ships of another. Under current rules, each country may only inspect its own fishing fleet.