According to a press release by Maria Damanaki, EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, “The 10 EU Member States that declared having exceeded their fishing quotas in 2013 will face reduced fishing quotas for those stocks in 2014.” The EC has announced these deductions in order “to immediately address the damage done to the stocks overfished in the previous year and ensure a sustainable use by Member States of common fishery resources”. In comparison to last year, “the number of deductions made went down by 22%.”
Ms Damanaki commented that “If we want to be serious in our fight against overfishing, we need to apply our rules by the book – and this includes the respect of quotas. I'm glad to see that we did a better job in 2013 than in previous years when it comes to staying within quotas. That said, to achieve healthy fish stocks across Europe we also need efficient controls to enforce the rules in place.”
The Commissioner noted that the quota deduction affected Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and United Kingdom and 45 fish stocks, adding that “Any quota deductions apply to the same stocks that were overfished in the previous year, with extra deductions made for consecutive overfishing, overfishing above 5%, or if the stock concerned is subject to a multiannual plan.”
It was noted that where a Member State has “no fishing quota available to ‘pay back’ their overfishing, the quantities will be deducted from an alternative stock in the same geographical area, taking into account the need to avoid discards in mixed fisheries.” In such cases, there is consultation with the Member States concerned, and the results of these consultations are to be published later in 2014. Where there is insufficient quota, “pay back” quantities will be carried over to 2015.
Member States that have been sanctioned are: Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and the UK.
Quotas systems – whether or not they involve transferability of quotas among operators – have been put in place or are being proposed for managing various fisheries in ACP countries (Namibia, South Africa, West Africa, etc). The example of the EU shows that recording the true levels of fishing, and whether quotas have been respected or not, is of key importance. It shows also that “pay-back”/penalties systems have to be put in place to address such situations where quotas are not respected and overfishing takes place. This suggests that the successful implementation of a quota system necessitates efficient monitoring, control and surveillance systems – something that is still not entirely satisfactory in many ACP countries. Other complementary actions can also be taken by fisheries managers to detect when quotas are not being respected, such as inconsistencies between catch data and sales data. This calls for improved cooperation between national fisheries and trade ministries.