New rules proposed for the EU Distant Water Fishing Fleet / by Francisco Blaha

The new proposed regulation, will apply to all EU vessels fishing outside EU waters, wherever they operate and irrespective of the legal framework under which the fishing takes place.

These vessels will not be able to fish in third country waters or in the high sea unless they have been previously authorised by their flag Member State, i.e. the state under whose laws the vessel is registered or licensed.

Latest design French Purse Seiners

Latest design French Purse Seiners

The fishing outside the EEZ authorisations is supposed to be already a standard under international law, so nothing new there! However what really interested me, is that to obtain authorisation they will have to show that they comply with a set of specific criteria– for instance that they have an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number and a valid fishing license, and have not been found guilty of infringements.

The flag Member State, under the supervision of the European Commission, will have to check the vessel's information thoroughly before granting authorisation and will enter this information into an official register.

This should facilitate monitoring and record keeping of our vessels' activities abroad, with obvious advantages when it comes to enforcing the EU's rules. Having all EU vessels subject to the same set of rules inside and outside the EU also adds legal clarity and fairness for the sector, even in the case of private licensing and reflagging.

Third countries will benefit as well from the additional safeguards of stricter controls. And as the vessels' information will be partly made public, citizens will have a better overview of where and how their fish was caught. 

If this proposal is made into regulations (which i really hope they do), then PLEASE, make it a Market Access Requirement condition (claim equivalent measures) for fish from other fleets (China, Taiwan, Korea, etc) to enter the EU market at the same level than the Health or Catch Certificate. That would be a radical blow to IUU fishing.