Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

28 Infringements of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2004



COM(06) 387

Commission Communication: Behaviour which seriously infringed the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2004

Legal base
Document originated14 July 2006
Deposited in Parliament19 July 2006
DepartmentEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of considerationEM of 21 August 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilSee para 28.5 below
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


28.1 Under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the Commission has since 1993 been required to report from time to time on the way in which the various control measures have been applied by the Member States. This requirement was amended in 1999 to oblige Member States to report annually on types of behaviour which seriously infringe the rules of the CFP, and for which proportional, effective and dissuasive penalties should be imposed. This Communication from the Commission — the fifth in the present series — summarises the information relating to proceedings initiated in 2004.

The current document current document

28.2 The Communication contains a short description of the information provided by each Member State. Subject to the caveat that the accuracy of the data varies greatly, and that the figures should therefore be treated with caution, it points out that:

  • the overall number of cases reported by Member States was 9,660: this compares with the pre-enlargement figures of 9,502 in 2003, and 6,756 in 2002;
  • 80% of these infringements occurred in three Member States (Spain, Italy and Portugal, though these also have the highest number of vessels);[72]
  • as in previous years, a significant proportion of infringements concerned unlawful fishing, either without the necessary authorisation or in prohibited areas: other infringements mainly concerned the use of prohibited fishing methods and falsifying the data required in control documents;
  • although Member States use different procedures, criminal or administrative, to sanction infringements, the majority of cases were subject to administrative proceedings;
  • a penalty was imposed in 82% of cases, but there were significant differences between Member States;[73]
  • although the average level of fine (€2,272) was below that in 2003 (which in turn had been much higher than that in previous years), there were significant differences between Member States, depending in part on whether returns included seizure of catches and/or gear; and
  • the Commission believes that the suspension of fishing licences would be an effective way of increasing compliance, and that the majority of Member States should use this approach more often.

The Commission also notes problems over the consistency and accuracy of this information with the Member States, and highlights the need to ensure that penalties provide an effective deterrent related to the value of the fish catches concerned.

The Governments view Governments view

28.3 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 21 August 2006, the Minister for Nature Conservation and Fisheries at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Ben Bradshaw) says that the UK welcomes publication of the Communication, which he believes makes a valuable contribution to ensuring greater transparency of fisheries enforcement across the Community, and to future discussions on control and enforcement within the framework of the reformed CFP.

28.4 He also notes that, in the UK, fisheries infringements are subject to criminal proceedings, and that, for the majority of serious offences, the Courts may impose a fine of up to £50,000, order the seizure of fishing gear, impose an additional fine up to the value of the fish involved, and, in certain circumstances, suspend or revoke a fishing vessel licence. He says that the majority of the 118 infringements reported by the UK were associated with the falsification of catch data recorded in logbooks and other documents, and that (unlike other Member States) there were very few infringements linked to fishing without a licence, unauthorised fishing or using prohibited fishing methods. He also points out that the average fine of €13,099 in the UK reflects a number of cases where substantial fines were imposed, was towards the top of the range, and was well in excess of the Community average.

28.5 The Minister says that the document has been submitted for information, and that the Council is expected to note its contents at one of its forthcoming meetings.


28.6 This Communication does not itself contain any proposals for legislation, but it nevertheless deals with an important aspect of the Common Fisheries Policy. For that reason, although we are clearing it, we think it right to draw it to the attention of the House, not least because of the clear evidence of shortcomings in the data provided by the various Member States, and the marked differences between the level of penalties imposed where infringements have occurred.

72   The UK, with 7,034 vessels, accounted for 76 (1.1%) infringements. Back

73   For example, 100% of infringements were the subject of sanctions in Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Spain and the UK, but only 17% in Sweden. Back

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