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Midnight EU Agreement reached over new fisheries rules

The reform of the EU Fisheries Control system is the most significant overhaul of EU fisheries rules in over a decade, and includes rules over how fish is caught, recorded, landed and brought to market.

At a minute to midnight on 30 May 2023, five years following the initial proposal from the European Commission, the institutions of the EU have finally come to an agreement in trilogue negotiations today on the EU Fisheries Control regulation.

Among its many measures, the new Fisheries Control Regulation will include a new electronic fishing logbook system, traceability system for fisheries products, improved electronic monitoring (including CCTV) on large vessels and a completely new reporting system for regulating the European recreational fisheries sector which includes over nine million citizens.

Negotiator for the Greens/EFA Group Grace O’Sullivan MEP said following the final trilogue meeting in Brussels tonight: “From the day this proposal was put forward during the previous mandate this has been one of the most difficult pieces of legislation the European Parliament has had to scrutinise and negotiate. In terms of modernisation of reporting and recording fisheries catch data, this will be a massive step forward for a sector that is often still reliant on paper records of fish catch in the age of smart phones and open data.”

One of the most controversial issues was the so-called Margins of Tolerance, which provides a degree of flexibility for fishers when calculating the weight of their catch. Member States and the European Parliament had sought to loosen these rules especially for the long-distance tropical tuna fleet. An agreement was reached that provided an expanded margin of tolerance for smaller amounts of fish and for tropical tuna fisheries under strict conditions such as the use of designated ports with heightened checks.

O’Sullivan continued: “On sustainability, it is great to see a new system in place for recreational fisheries and improved measures for a fair and transparent Landing Obligation, however the Margins of Tolerance provisions remain a concern. The efficacy of this system will rely on improved controls and inspections at port for industrial fisheries which to date have not been up to scratch. If we don’t improve controls, we could be writing a blank cheque for unscrupulous actors to misreport catches literally by the tonne.”

The Fisheries Control system was last reformed in 2009, prior to the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2013. Following the agreement, the outcome of the trilogue will have to be confirmed by the European Parliament Fisheries Committee. Various sections of the regulation are due to come into force over a staggered period, as Member States and the Commission have requested time to be able to put the new systems in place.

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