Wednesday, 12 December 2007

EU Court of Auditors: Why Europe Can’t Count Fish

On 4 December, the EU Court of Auditors published a report on ‘the control, inspection and sanction systems relating to the rules on conservation of Community fisheries resources’. The Court of Auditors' report is focused on data collection, control and enforcement under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). They believe that these areas are crucial to the proper functioning of any fisheries management policy based on catch limitations. The Court has found substantial shortcomings on “systems for collecting and monitoring catch data, on inspection arrangements, and systems for following up infringements and imposing sanctions.” The Court conducted a broad audit in these areas covering the Commission’s functions as well as how CFP rules are being implemented by the fisheries management authorities in six Member States (Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom).

The Court noted that “quota monitoring and quota uptake data are incomplete and unreliable.” Moreover, the Court stressed that the Commission is “unable to explain the differences between the figures that its Directorate-General for fisheries receives and those received by Eurostat.” Furthermore, the Court found that the Member States inspection systems do not offer guarantee that infringements are effectively prevented and detected. The Court deemed the “systems for following up infringements and imposing sanctions” inappropriate. Hence, according to the Court conclusions “unreliable catch data, inspections of limited effectiveness, systems for following up infringements and imposing sanctions that are often inappropriate” jeopardizes the proper functioning of a fisheries management policy based on catch limitations.

The Court has identified so many shortcomings which show that the measures for fishery resources management, and the total allowable catch (TAC) and quota system are not operating effectively. Therefore, the whole approach of the CFP should be questioned. According the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg, "The Court's Report has come at a critical moment. The Commission is scheduled to table a new Regulation on Fisheries Control in the second half of 2008. Most of the Court's conclusions coincide closely with our own analysis.” The Court report clearly shows that the CFP has failed.

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