Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fourth Report


COM(01) 526

Commission Report on the monitoring of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Synthesis of the implementation of the control system applicable to the
Common Fisheries Policy by Member States.

Legal base:
Document originated: 28 September 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 28 September 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 16 October 2001
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 26 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see footnotes below
To be discussed in Council: 27 November 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but relevant to the debate recommended on the Commission's Green Paper on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy


17.1  Under the Council Regulation (2847/93)[46] establishing the control system for the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the Commission is required to report on the way in which the various measures have been applied by the Member States. Previous Committees have reported on earlier such reports,[47] and a more substantial Communication[48] on the subject was debated in European Standing Committee A in May 1998. The present report is the third in the regular series, and comprises a synthesis of the various implementation arrangements covering the period 1996 to 1999.

The current document

17.2  The Commission addresses the issues arising here under the following headings:

— National frameworks for control

The Commission says that Member States have established legal frameworks for control and assigned competent authorities within the context of their respective legal and administrative systems. They have also invested fisheries inspectors with legal powers of control and the ability to initiate infraction procedures. It observes that these measures generally allow national authorities to enforce Community law, but that the differences in this area between Member States have in practical terms remained substantial, and may have resulted in unequal treatment of fishermen in different parts of the Community. The Commission also says that the co-operation and co-ordination arrangements established by Member States do not adequately respond to the requirements of trans-boundary fishing activities.

— Means of control

The Commission considers that previous shortcomings in inspection and surveillance in Community waters have been reduced, not only by increasing the resources available, but also by involving the industry itself more directly in these tasks. It observes that financial contributions from the Community have greatly facilitated the acquisition and modernisation of inspection and control equipment, with the introduction of new technologies, such as satellite monitoring, providing new opportunities. However, it believes that, in spite of "undeniable" progress, certain deficiencies still remain, due generally to the fact that the means available to, and the measures taken by, the national authorities do not adequately match what is required to establish a comprehensive control system.

— Monitoring systems

The Commission notes that each coastal Member State has a duty to ensure the proper recording on a national data base of fisheries activities in its waters, and that, in the case of flag states, this obligation extends to the fishing activities carried out by its vessels beyond those waters. It says that, although some Member States have made substantial progress since its previous report, the functioning of the catch and effort monitoring systems still cannot be considered satisfactory. It adds that, given the obligations dating back to 1984, the monitoring of catches, landing and sales leaves a lot to be accomplished, and that the highly variable methods used by Member States to aggregate their effort data have generally not been adequate. More specifically, although Spain is commended for having implemented thoroughly the scheme for regulating the effort of its vessels operating in western waters, other Member States are seen as remaining behind in this field. However, apart from the delays in several Member States in introducing satellite monitoring, the Commission regards the use of these systems so far as promising.

— Inspection and surveillance activities

The Commission recalls that each Member States is responsible for the inspection and surveillance of the fishing activities on its territory and in its waters. It says that, although some Member States have introduced in Community waters and ashore an effective scheme, and a coherent inspection strategy based on a comprehensive control system, the same cannot be said of all Member States, due in the main to inadequate resources, shortcomings in the training of inspectors, cumbersome procedural demands, and a lack of targeting. It also mentions the promotion by the Commission of the joint control schemes of the regional fisheries organisation beyond Community waters, which require co-operation both within the Community and with other contracting parties. It says that, with the exception of the NEAFC and NAFO areas, flag states are in general attributing a low priority to the monitoring of their vessels.

— Fleet capacity

The Commission points out that general rules governing the control of fleet capacity have been adopted at Community level, and that each Member State is responsible for adopting detailed measures ensuring national implementation of the targets set. This involves them in regulating new entries to their fishing fleets through national licensing systems, and collecting information on each registered fishing vessel. It says that the measures taken to achieve the capacity reductions needed to meet the objectives laid down in the Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGP) have not been ambitious enough to enable the structural policy to meet the Community's bench-marks for fleet reduction, and that this has contributed to a widening gap between fleet capacity and fishing opportunities. In addition, the Commission believes that the control of fleet register data, the approach to segmentation under the MAGP, and the aimed reduction of fishing effort have fallen short of their objectives.

— Implementation of penalties

The Commission says that, within the Community framework, Member States are responsible for following up infringements and penalty systems, and must therefore ensure that the systems in force are appropriate. It considers that the current systems appear to be too permissive towards fisheries-related offences, in that observed infringements are not always brought before the relevant bodies, there is an excessive use of warnings, and actual penalties remain below a deterrent level. It adds that much also remains to be achieved in the exchange of evidence and other judicial co-operation where trans-boundary situations arise. The Commission concludes that the treatment of fishermen within the different systems of national penalties tends to be unequal, and that the aim of a harmonised level of penalties is rather distant.

17.3  Overall, the Commission concludes that fisheries control — for which it says the Community bears overall responsibility — is fragmented, and that, whilst many activities are being effectively controlled, others are either controlled inadequately or not at all. It also observes that, in a number of fisheries, the overall success of control will be as strong as the weakest link in the chain. It acknowledges that a number of the problems identified in this report can be dealt with by measures adopted at national level, but it says that not all of these will be resolved in this way. It also says that, to the extent that the current control framework is not able to tackle the problem of Member States failing to live up to the required standards, the situation needs to be addressed at Community level.

17.4  The Commission suggests that this report should be part of the discussion on the review of the CFP launched by its Green Paper in March 2001.[49] In the light of that discussion, it will produce a further Communication on the future development of fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance.

The Government's view

17.5  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 26 October 2001, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) says that the Government welcomes the report as providing a comprehensive and detailed overview of fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance within the Community, and believes that effective and consistent standards of enforcement for CFP measures remain essential if stocks are to be sustainably managed. He agrees with the Commission that the report will make a valuable contribution to the debate of improving standards of enforcement, which will form an integral part of the review of the CFP next year, and he says that the Government will seek to play a constructive part in that debate, as well as continuing to maintain a close dialogue with the Commission on enforcement issues within the UK.


17.6  As we have already noted, this report is the third in a series which the Commission is obliged to produce under Council Regulation (EC) No. 2873/93, and — like the two earlier reports — it is clearly right for it to be drawn to the attention of the House. The issues it deals with are important, though perhaps not sufficiently novel to warrant a debate in their own right, given the extensive discussion there has been on enforcement under the Common Fisheries Policy. However, as with a number of other documents we have considered recently, we think this report is relevant to the debate which has been recommended on the Commission's Green Paper on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy.

17.7  We would also urge the Government to arrange that debate shortly. When it was first recommended by our predecessors on 2 May 2001, they highlighted the importance of an early debate, given the likelihood of the Green Paper being debated at the Fisheries Council in June, and the 30 September deadline set by the Commission for the receipt of comments. Whilst we appreciate the delay caused by the General Election, and by the need for us to confirm the debate recommendation (which we did on 18 July 2001),[50] there seems to us no good reason why the debate should not now take place as a matter of urgency.

46   OJ No. L 261, 20.10.93, p.1. Back

47   (17081) 5960/96; see HC 51-xvi (1995-96), paragraph 3 (17 April 1996) and (18225) 8924/97; see HC 155-ii (1997-98), paragraph 95 (22 July 1997). Back

48   (18899) 6123/98; see HC 155-xxii (1997-98), paragraph 3 (18 March 1998) and Official Report, European Standing Committee A, 20 May 1998.  Back

49   (22292) 7262/01; see HC 28-xiii (2000-01), paragraph 1 (2 May 2001) and HC 52-i (2001-02), paragraph 1 (18 July 2001). Back

50   Ibid. Back

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