In order to tackle the global problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (“IUU”) fishing Council Regulation (EC) 1005/2008 was passed. This Regulation came into force on 1 January 2010.
Application of the Regulation
The Regulation applied to all illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and associated activities carried out within the territory of the Member States, within Community waters, within maritime waters under the jurisdiction or sovereignty of third countries and on the high seas.
Inspection of third country fishing vessels in Member States ports
The Regulation requires Member States to carry out an effective scheme of inspections in their ports for third country fishing vessels and prohibit third county fishing vessels to use their ports unless they meet certain criteria.
Member States are obliged to inspect at least 5% of all landing and transhipment operations by third country fishing vessels each year. Certain fishing vessels must be inspected in all cases.
If, following an inspection, a fishing vessel is suspected as having been involved in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing, the inspector is required to record the suspected infringement, ensure that all evidence relating to the suspected infringement is preserved and report the matter to the competent authority. If the competent authority is satisfied that the fishing vessel has been involved in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing it is not allowed to authorise the vessel to land or tranship its catch and must inform the Commission and the competent authority of the flag State of the vessel. Where appropriate, it should also inform the Executive Secretary of the regional fisheries management organisation in whose area the catch was made.
Where a suspected breach has taken place in the high seas the Member State is required to cooperate with the flag State in carrying out an investigation into the suspected breach and, where appropriate, is required to apply the sanctions provided for by the legislation of that Member State.
Where a suspected breach has taken place in the maritime waters of a third country the Member State is required to cooperate with the coastal State in carrying out an investigation into the suspected breach and, where appropriate, is required to apply the sanctions provided for by the legislation of that Member State.
The Regulation requires Member States to designate ports, or places close to the shore, for permitted third country fishing vessels to use.
Notice requirements for third country fishing vessels
Masters of third country fishing vessels or their representatives are required to give at least three working days notice of their wish to use a designated port or landing place. Such notice must be given to the competent authority of the Member State in question and must contain certain information. It must also be accompanied by a valid “catch certificate” if the vessel in question carries fishery products on board.
Authorisation of third country fishing vessels
Member States can only generally grant permission to third country fishing vessels to use a designated port or landing place if the notice requirements have been complied with, the information has been checked and, where appropriate, an inspection has been carried out.
Masters of third country fishing vessels or their representatives, are required to provide the competent authority of the Member State in question with a declaration indicating the quantity of fishery products by species to be landed or transhipped and the date and place of each catch. Member States are required to keep any such declarations for at least three years and inform the Commission on a quarterly basis of the quantities landed and/ or transhipped by third country fishing vessels.
The importation and exportation of fishery products, whether directly or indirectly, into or from the European Community without a valid catch certificate is, subject to certain exceptions, prohibited.
A catch certificate is a certificate issued by the flag State of a fishing vessel certifying that such catches have been made in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and international conservation and management measures.
If there is no valid catch certificate a Member State should refuse the importation into the Community of fishery products.
The competent authorities of the Member States have the power to carry out all forms of verification they deem necessary to ensure that the Regulation is correctly applied.
Community alert system
If there is doubt as to whether a fishing vessel or fishery products is complying with the Regulations or any other relevant legislation or measures the Commission is required to publish an “alert notice” on its website and in the Official Journal of the European Union to warn operators and ensure that Member States take appropriate measures.
Enquiries relating to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
If the Commission believes that a fishing vessel may be engaged in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing it is required to make an official request for an enquiry with the flag State concerned and request that the flag State takes immediate enforcement action should the allegation be proved to be founded. The Commission has certain procedural requirements in respect of non-cooperating third countries.
Responsibilities of Nationals
Member State nationals are prohibited from supporting and engaging in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Where they do engage in such activities Member States are required to take appropriate action.
Member States are required to fully investigate any serious infringements and take immediate enforcement measures. These may include the immediate cessation of fishing activities, the seizure of fishing gear, catches or fisheries products, the temporary immobilisation of fishing vessels and the imposition of fines.