On 14 July 2006, the European Commission published their 5th annual report on serious infringements to the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Difficult to compare Member States
In similar tone and conclusion to the previous reports, the Commission highlight the difficulty in using the information that Member States provide to draw clear conclusions and comparisons between Member States. However, and despite this, one solid conclusion the Commission is able to make is that the level of sanction throughout the Community is insufficient to act as a deterrent and should be generally increased.
The Commission is of the opinion that an administrative sanction that penalises fishing time rather than the pocket of fishermen, i.e. the suspension of a licence or authorisation to fish, would be quicker to administer and a more effective deterrent. They highlight their regret that Member States do not more readily use this approach.
The serious infringement report was introduced in 1999 with a view to increasing the level of transparency on how Member States accomplish their obligations to enforce Community rules and ensure that the appropriate measures are taken against those that infringe the rules.
Types of enfringements
The different types of behaviour that are considered to be serious infringements of the CFP rules are presented below:
- Obstructing the work of fisheries inspectors
- Falsifying, concealing, destroying or tampering with evidence
- Obstructing the work of observers
- Fishing without holding a fishing licence /permit or any other authorisation required for fishing
- Fishing under cover of a falsified document
- Falsifying, deleting or concealing the identification marks of the fishing vessel
- Using or keeping on board prohibited fishing gear
- Using prohibited fishing methods
- Not lashing or stowing prohibited fishing gear
- Directed fishing for, or keeping on board of, a species subject to a fishing prohibition
- Unauthorised fishing
- Failure to comply with minimum landing sizes
- Failure to comply with the rules and procedures relating to transhipments
- Falsifying or failing to record data in logbooks
- Tampering with the satellite-based vessel monitoring system
- Deliberate failure to comply with rules on remote transmission of movements of fishing vessels
- Failure a third country vessel to comply with the rules when operating in Community waters
- Storing, processing, placing on sale, transporting fish products not meeting marketing standards
Low levels of sanctions
Owing to the reporting period, this year’s report describes the situation in 2004. The number of detected serious infringements rose slightly from 9,502 in 2003 to 9,660 in 2004. However, this is likely to be an under representation owing to the fact that 2004 was a transitional year with regard to enlargement of the EU and not every new Member State was able to meet its reporting obligations.
The average fine applied by Member States varied substantially from as little as € 48 at one end of the scale to € 13,099 at the other. In 3,203 cases, the seizure of the fishing gear was ordered. In the absence of further information, in particular concerning the value of catches involved and the loss of profit caused by suspension of the right to operate, it is difficult to establish whether sanctions are being evaluated effectively.
It is clear from the continuing high level of reported infringements that the level of sanctions imposed by the Member States remains far too low to act as an effective deterrent. Indeed, the average fine imposed fell by almost 50%, from € 4,664 in 2003, to € 2,272 in 2004. The total amount of penalties in 2004 thus represented no more than 2/1000ths of the value of fish landings during that year.
The standard and timeliness of information provided by the Member States has been a constant problem throughout the life of the serious infringement report. The commentary that has accompanied the report suggests that the Commission has been frustrated by this and is considering taking action against some Member States.
Following consultations with the Member States last year, the Commission has made a commitment to improve the usefulness of the data provided and this seems likely to contribute to the Commissions obligation to produce a sanctions catalogue, as stated in the revised CFP in 2002.
With respect to its effectiveness it can only be concluded that the serious infringement report does not effectively achieve its aim of increasing transparency nor has it encouraged the adoption of adequate and dissuasive sanctions. The value of the report needs to be significantly and quickly improved in a clearly demonstrable way or an alternative approach developed.
Five serious infringement reports have been published. The reports are availible for download below.