Borg asks for industry support to make rules work – Fishupdate.com

Joe Borg

Borg asks for industry support to make rules work Published:  21 February, 2008

EU FISHERIES Commissioner Joe Borg today told fishing industry representatives that he hopes for their support in developing new, more effective rules on control and compliance.

Dr Borg was speaking at a conference held at Europe’s top white fish port, Peterhead,in North-east Scotland, on control and compliance in the fishing industry.

The two-day event is being hosted by the North Sea Regional Advisory Council (NSRAC) in co-operation with the Scottish Government and the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA).

And in his speech,which echoed concerns he voiced earlier this week in Brussels, Dr Borg emphasised the findings of a Court of Auditors report on control inspections and sanctions which found catch data to be unreliable, and systems for following up infringements and imposing sanctions to be often inappropriate.

He admitted it had a damning conclusion, pointing to ineffective control systems and told of research of his which had similar findings.

He said member states are sending data to the Commission which does not add up, showing a lack of verification at source.

“The message remains the same – namely that our control system is simply not delivering,” he told the conference.

“If we don’t act, we will continue the vicious circle of false catch declarations fed into the scientific assessment, which leads to poor advice.

“This leads to low respect for the rules and unsustainable additional pressure on stocks.

“If we don’t act now all our work to bring fishing back to sustainable levels will be seriously undermined.”

He spoke of the need to develop a new approach towards inspection and control which is simplified, harmonised, cost-effective, and that ensures controllability as well as developing a culture of compliance.

Dr Borg also spoke of the need to introduce deterrent sanctions; reinforcing the capacity of the Commission, including the ability to close fisheries on its own initiative; as well as strengthening cooperation and assistance in the industry.

Suspending community aid or introducing incentives would also be options as a means of taking action against those in breach of the regulations, he said.

He described the current situation as a “vastly unlevel playing field”. Moreover, he emphasised the role which modern technology could play in verifying information.

The Commissioner also said he was looking at broadening the mandate of the Control Agency to play a role between member states and the Commission.

“Control measures need to be simpler and need to take better account of the views of stakeholders,” he added.

“The object is not getting more money from fishermen. The object is that penalties must be comparable across the EU, and that they should work as a deterrent.

“The current system is one that almost invites cheating. Reform must have the interests of hard-working and honest fishermen at heart.”

Closing his speech he urged immediate action and said he will launch a task force on control policy, as well as consulting control experts in member states.

“It is clear that there is a job to do. I am counting on your action, involvement and your support as stakeholders,” he told the conference.

The conference includes workshops on realtime closures, technical conservation and influencing behaviour, as well as a presentation on the European Parliament’s opinion by Ian Hudghton MEP.

Aberdeenshire Council provides the secretariat for the NSRAC, which hosted its Executive Committee Meeting in the town’s Arbuthnot House on Wednesday.

The local authority’s European Fishing Projects Co-ordinator and NSRAC executive secretary, Ann Bell, said: “Everybody we have spoken to has been impressed by Aberdeenshire’s support and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive about how much commitment Aberdeenshire Council has made to the NSRAC, and therefore the fishing industry.”

Provost of Aberdeenshire, Bill Howatson, who had dinner with Commissioner Borg on Wednesday night, said:

“The council has a particular role as a facilitator and we have taken this opportunity to welcome the Commissioner, with whom we had very fruitful discussions.

“We are pleased that the Commissioner was able to attend and to make full use of the facilities we can offer, in terms of promoting the fishing industry.”

www.fishupdate.com is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.