September 23, 2015
Interview with María José-Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Director for Oceana Europe.
Recently Oceana, together with its NGO partner organisations, launched a new online database whofishesfar.org showcasing 15,264 EU vessels authorised to fish outside EU waters between 2010 and 2014.
Where did the idea of the website come from and what’s so important about this initiative?
The website discloses valuable information that was previously unavailable to the public. Before its launch, it was unknown how many vessels were allowed to fish outside the EU, what they were called, and where and when they were authorised to fish. Oceana and its NGO partners made an access to information request to the European Commission under the Aarhus Convention to obtain authorisations permitted between 2010 and 2014. By delivering this data, this first-ever global transparency website is a milestone towards transparency in fisheries.
Does the website include all the necessary information that could contribute to the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing?
All the activities conducted by the EU fleet should be fully transparent in order to prevent illegal fishing. But so far, whofishesfar does not include information on private or chartering agreements between EU companies and third countries. EU companies undertake private agreements with certain countries that grant them access to fish resources in the waters of these coastal states. In addition, EU companies make chartering agreements for their EU vessels to fish the resources of certain coastal states in collaboration with local companies.
The European Commission acknowledges that it has no information about these agreements and that an EU-wide database providing this data does not even exist. In practice, this makes it impossible for the EC and Member States to fully monitor and control the activities carried out by all European vessels. The lack of transparency is a significant loophole in the process of managing the external fleet, since there is no means of crosschecking the legality of fleet activities, or measuring its impact on fish stocks in third country waters.
What will the presence of the new database change in the global fight on IUU (Illegal, Unreported & Unregulated) fishing?
From now on, everyone can enter the website and view information on where a vessel has had an authorisation to fish, the flag state of the vessel as well as the year and type of access granted under the EU’s Fishing Regulation Authority (FAR)[i] for the years 2010-2014. Revealing this data to the public is key to eradicating illegal fishing and guaranteeing that all EU fleet activities will be carried out in a fair, transparent and sustainable way in line with the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the EU IUU (Illegal, unreported & unregulated) Regulation.
Also the rules governing the licensing of FAR authorisations will be reviewed this year. We call upon the EU to eliminate the loopholes that until now have fostered illegal operations and affected the transparency of the fishing activities under FAR authorisations. The EU fleet fishing outside the EU should be a global example of good practice in terms of sustainability and accountability.
[i] Council Regulation (EC) No 1006/2008