Two steps forward, one giant step back: European Parliament votes for modern and transparent fisheries, but opens grave loophole

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The EU Fisheries Control Coalition applauds the positive steps taken by the European Parliament towards more transparent fisheries and traceable seafood. With their vote in plenary this week, EU parliamentarians have called for all fishing vessels to report everything they catch, including sensitive and protected species, which will make data for over 49,000 EU vessels available for the first time. Further, EU vessels will be tracked through electronic monitoring tools, seafood available in the EU market will be digitally traceable from net to plate, and EU Member States will be required to report more transparently on their control measures.

At the same time, the decision to significantly backtrack on accurate reporting of seafood catches casts a dark shadow over the voting outcome, as up to 40% of catches (and up to 50% in the case of tuna) may now be omitted from the EU fleet’s records. This would undermine scientific data to evaluate the status of fish stocks, could render fisheries control efforts ineffective, and will put the last decade of progress for seafood sustainability and marine species’ recovery at serious risk – as the European Commission itself has warned.

Gonçalo Carvalho, Sciaena’s Executive Coordinator said that “Looking at the Portuguese reality, today’s vote was quite positive as the European Parliamentarians acknowledged the importance of monitoring small scale fisheries to manage them soundly, but also to more easily differentiate national catches and valorize them. Now, we hope the Portuguese Presidency will have a positive influence in defining the Council’s position on this issue, reinforcing the good points created but also making sure that the European Parliament’s push to increase the margins of tolerance is not turned into reality”.

Andrea Ripol, Fisheries Policy Officer at Seas At Risk
said: “Today’s vote is a mixed bag for dolphins, seabirds and turtles across the EU. Even though the mandatory collection of data on incidental catches in logbooks is a bold and promising step to help reverse biodiversity loss, the rejection of Remote Electronic Monitoring for data collection on sensitive species undermines its effectiveness, as it is an essential tool to ensure the data is recorded accurately.”

With the European Parliament’s position on the fisheries Control Regulation now adopted, Members of the European Parliament, the representatives from EU Member States and the European Commission are scheduled to begin negotiations to finalise the future fisheries control system later this summer.

It is crucial that the gains secured for sustainable fishing and healthy seas in Wednesday night’s vote are maintained in the trilogue discussions. However, both MEPs and EU Member States must urgently remedy the dramatic increase in the margin fishers receive to estimate their catches. The European Commission has warned that the 40-50% of catches missing from fishers’ logbooks could jeopardise the recovery of fish stocks in European seas, putting the future of fisheries at risk and stands in stark contrast to the goals of the European Green Deal. It is now up to EU parliamentarians, EU Member States and the Commission to make sure the robustness of our fisheries control system will not be undermined by this giant misstep.

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