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22.2.2.  Internal aspects of the fisheries conservation policy of the EU

    The scope of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) includes the conservation of marine biological resources and the management of fisheries and fleets exploiting such resources [Regulation 1380/2013, last amended by Regulation 2015/812]. In addition, it includes, in relation to market measures and financial measures in support of its objectives, fresh water biological resources and aquaculture activities, as well as the processing and marketing of fishery and aquaculture products, where such activities take place on the territory of Member States or in Union waters, including by fishing vessels flying the flag of, and registered in, third countries, by Union fishing vessels, or by nationals of Member States, without prejudice to the primary responsibility of the flag State. Pursuing the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth [see section 7.3], the CFP should ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities contribute to long-term environmental, economic, and social sustainability. It should include rules that aim to ensure the traceability, security and quality of products marketed in the Union. Furthermore, the CFP should contribute to increased productivity, to a fair standard of living for the fisheries sector including small-scale fisheries, and to stable markets, and it should ensure the availability of food supplies and that they reach consumers at reasonable prices.

    The CFP is founded on scientific advice and the precautionary principle on the one hand, and on good governance and consistency with the other common policies on the other. Among the measures which the Union may adopt are multiannual conservation plans for the most threatened stocks, including measures to reduce fishing effort where necessary, and multiannual management plans for other stocks. Where there is a serious threat to the conservation of resources or the marine ecosystem, the Commission and the Member States may take the necessary emergency measures lasting for six and three months respectively. The Member States may also adopt conservation and management measures applicable to fishing vessels inside their 12 nautical mile zone, provided that they are non-discriminatory and prior consultation between the Commission and the Member States has taken place, and that the EU has not adopted measures specifically for that area. Concerning access to waters and resources, the CFP lays down rules on allocating fishing opportunities and reviewing the access rules inside the 12 nautical mile zones of the Member States.

    The EU control system aiming to ensure compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy engages the Member States to control the activities carried out by any natural or legal person within the scope of the common fisheries policy on their territory and within waters under their sovereignty or jurisdiction, in particular fishing activities, transhipments, transfer of fish to cages or aquaculture installations including fattening installations, landing, import, transport, processing, marketing and storage of fisheries and aquaculture products. Member States must also control access to waters and resources and control activities outside EU waters carried out by EU fishing vessels flying their flag and, without prejudice to the primary responsibility of the flag Member State, by their nationals [Regulation 1224/2009, last amended by Regulation 1380/2013, last amended by Regulation 2015/812].

    When, for a particular species or related species, restriction of catch volume is necessary, the  total allowable catch (TAC) for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, the share available to the EU, the allocation of this share between Member States, total catch allocated to third countries and the specific conditions under which all this must take place are drawn up every year [see e.g. Regulation 43/2014, last amended by Regulation 2015/104]. The same is true of the setting of guidance prices for fishery products [Regulation 104/2000 last amended by Regulation 2015/2265]. The annual allocation of catch quotas between the Member States is a process almost as difficult as the annual setting of agricultural prices. In both cases, a delicate balance must be struck between the aspirations of the different Member States.

    The annual setting of TACs and their allocation between the Member States are, naturally enough, based on certain criteria. TAC setting takes into account scientific opinions on the need to protect fishing grounds and fish stocks, balancing them against the interests of European consumers and fishermen. It was mentioned above that quite often the latter interests weigh more than the scientific opinions. However, TAC setting also takes into consideration the agreements which the EU has with third countries, such as Norway and Canada. The allocation of the TACs between Member States (catch quotas) is also carried out in light of traditional fishing activities, possible loss of fishing potential in the waters of third countries and the specific needs of regions which are particularly dependent on fishing and its related industries. In order to improve the conditions for exploiting resources, a general European system regulates authorisations for fishing activities of European fishing vessels outside EU waters and the access of third country vessels to EU waters, access aligned, as far as appropriate, with the rules applicable to European fishing vessels [Regulation 1006/2008 and Regulation 201/2010, see also section 22.2.1]. Special fishing permits are issued under certain conditions to European fishing vessels and to vessels flying the flag of a third country and operating in EU fishing waters [Regulation 1224/2009, last amended by Regulation 1380/2013, last amended by Regulation 2015/812].

    A Commission Regulation lays down detailed rules for the implementation of Regulation 1224/2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy [Regulation 404/2011]. It sets, in particular, definitions concerning the terms: EU fishing vessel, EU waters, holder of a fishing licence, Union inspectors, fish aggregating device, vessel monitoring system, satellite-tracking device, fishing operation, electronic fishing logbook, product presentation, computerised validation system and web service.

    A European framework covers specific measures to conserve and manage fishery resources in the Mediterranean. Projects which can be financed by the EU notably include the restructuring of traditional fisheries, the adaptation of specialised fisheries (sponges, coral, sea urchin), the monitoring of fishing activities, the development of a statistical network and the coordination of research and the use of scientific data. A Regulation lays down certain technical measures for the sustainable exploitation of fishery resources in the Mediterranean [Regulation 1967/2006, last amended by Regulation 2015/812]. Technical measures exist also for the conservation of fishery resources in the waters of the Baltic Sea, the Belts and the Sound [Regulation 2187/2005, last amended by Regulation 2015/812].

    The policy of resource management, which was traditionally based on quantitative limitation of catches, was complemented in 1995 by a system for the management of the fishing effort. It establishes the criteria and procedures for bringing fleet capacities and efforts under control in the European waters of the Atlantic and aims at a spatial distribution of fishing effort which preserves the existing balances between different areas [Regulation 1954/2003]. It also establishes a system for the management of fishing effort relating to certain European fishing areas and resources by fixing the annual maximum fishing effort for each Member State and each fishery, defined by the fleet capacity deployed and by the fleet's activity in terms of days at sea. Specific access requirements and associated conditions are applicable to fishing for deep-sea stocks [Regulation 2347/2002, last amended by Regulation 2015/812].

    Technical conservation measures are defined to protect marine biological resources, particularly juveniles [Regulation 850/98, last amended by Regulation 2015/812]. They concern, for example, mesh sizes, levels of by-catches, minimum marketing sizes and catch restrictions in certain zones, during certain periods or with certain gear [Regulation 894/97]. The use of drift-nets for fishing certain species in certain waters is banned. The use of explosives, poison, sleep-inducing substances or fire arms for fishing is forbidden. Fish which do not reach the minimum size must be immediately thrown back into the sea. Purse seines may be used only for catching the target species without endangering marine mammals. A specific regulation lays down technical measures for the conservation of certain stocks of highly migratory species, in accordance with the recommendations adopted by regional fisheries organisations and various bilateral agreements of the EU with third countries [Regulation 520/2007].

    If resources are to be fished in an optimal manner, there must be permanent monitoring of fishing by surveillance ships. A European Fisheries Control Agency, based in Vigo (Spain) coordinates the fisheries inspection and control activities of the Member States [Regulation 1224/2009, last amended by Regulation 2015/812]. Member States authorities are obliged to inspect fishing vessels flying their flag in accordance with certain common rules and methods, including satellite monitoring, to ensure that restrictions on fishing possibilities are respected. Fishing vessel captains must keep a log book listing the quantities of each species caught and kept and must submit a declaration listing the quantities unloaded after each trip to the authorities in the place of unloading. They must use monitoring instruments which electronically record and transmit information on fishing activities and set up a remote-sensing system to monitor the presence of the vessel in a given zone [Regulation 1224/2009, last amended by Regulation 1380/2013, last amended by Regulation 2015/812. A European fishing fleet register establishes rules on the collection by Member States of the data necessary to determine their vessels fishing effort exerted on fish stocks, so as to ensure balanced exploitation of them [Regulation 26/2004, last amended by Regulation 741/2014].

    The inspectors of the Member States are, however, themselves monitored by the Commission [Regulation 2740/1999]. It exercises its power to monitor the observance by Member States of TAC, quotas and technical conservation measures by sending inspectors to fishing ports in the Member States and on board surveillance ships in EU waters and in certain international waters. In this framework, it opens infringement proceedings against Member States, which overstep their catch quotas or fail to respect their obligations in the area of surveillance or fishery resource conservation and management. The Union makes a financial contribution to national expenditure for the modernisation and development of surveillance and monitoring facilities rendered necessary by the implementation of the common fisheries policy [Regulation 861/2006].

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