Belgium. EU Commission welcomes new step in fight against illegal fishing by North East Atlantic Fisheries

Monday, 20 November 2006

The European Commission has welcomed the new port state control scheme that was adopted by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) to tackle illegal fishing activities. The measures, which will become applicable from 1 May 2007, will require the green light from the flag state to the port state before foreign fishing vessels will be authorised to land frozen fish products in the ports of the Contracting Parties to NEAFC. The agreed measures also include new obligations and benchmarks as regards inspections to be carried out by the port state. This is a very important development in combating illegal catches of fish that are more difficult to detect, particularly when the fish is landed frozen, as is often the case with cod from the Barents Sea.

Welcoming this agreement, Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: “This is a most welcome breakthrough in tackling the illegal fishing activities in the north Atlantic. The decision taken by NEAFC also strengthens the developments recently observed in the North-West Fisheries Organisation and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources in taking decisive measures to eliminate illegal fishing. These regional fisheries management organisations are the best instruments to achieve effective governance on the high seas.”

Pointing out that the EU had played a leading role in the introduction of this very first port state control scheme, Commissioner Borg also welcomed the positive attitude of the NEAFC partners, in particular the Russian Federation.

Today’s decision on adopting a comprehensive port state control scheme was taken unanimously. From 1 May 2007, prior notification of landings of frozen fish by foreign fishing vessels will have to include a declaration by the master of the vessels concerned of the catch on board. Before the landings can be authorised by the port state, the flag state must exercise its responsibility by verifying the information provided in the declaration. This means that the flag state must confirm, firstly, that the fishing vessel had sufficient quota and, secondly, that the catch had been taken into account in the national monitoring quota uptake regime.

The flag state must also confirm that the vessel was authorised to fish and that the area of catch, declared by the vessel, has been verified through the records received via the satellite-based vessel monitoring system, known as VMS. Without such confirmation no authorisation can be given by the port state and without authorisation no landings can occur. The control measures also include new obligations and benchmarks which the port state must implement in its inspections of these vessels.

The new port state control scheme covers landings and transhipments of frozen fish whether caught on the high seas or in the waters under the jurisdiction of the contracting parties to NEAFC.

The contracting parties to NEAFC are: the European Union, Denmark (in respect of the Faeroe Islands and Greenland), Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation.

Last Updated ( Monday, 20 November 2006 )