Fisheries Committee backs sanctions deal

The deal was struck in response to the overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Credit: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center The deal was struck in response to the overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Credit: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

New rules giving the European Commission the power to ban EU imports of fish from overfished stocks and related species was unanimously endorsed by the Fisheries Committee on 11 July.

It was struck by MEPs and Council negotiators in response to the overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

MEPs have insisted that to ensure the long-term sustainability of fish stocks of common interest to the EU and third countries, the EU should take a hard line on third countries that fail to live up to their responsibilities.

The agreed text empowers the Commission to restrict EU imports from countries that allow unsustainable fishing of fish and fishery products from stocks of common interest (i.e. fish stocks available to the fleets of both EU and third countries whose management requires cooperation between them) and of ‘associated species’.

To make the sanctions tougher whilst complying with WTO rules, MEPs insisted on a much broader definition of ‘associated species’ than originally proposed by the Commission. It will now cover all fish from the same ecosystem as the stock of common interest that prey upon it, are preyed on by it, compete with it for food and living space or occur in the same fishing area.

Should these sanctions prove ineffective, the Commission may adopt additional measures such as restricting the use of EU ports by vessels flying the flag of a non-compliant country or by vessels carrying fish from the overfished stock to the EU, banning exports of vessels, fishing equipment and supplies from the EU to the third country and also banning sales of vessels from the third country to the EU.

The country concerned will be given a reasonable opportunity to respond before the sanctions are enforced and will be given no more than one month to remedy matters.

The agreement still needs to be endorsed by Parliament as a whole and the Council. The vote in plenary is scheduled for September with the Council to follow soon after.

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