For the first time in the EU, the Spanish ministry in charge of fisheries has imposed financial penalties and disqualification on Spanish crew members involved in illegal fishing activities while working on board a non-EU flagged vessel blacklisted by the Convention on the Conservation of Marine Living Resources of Antarctica (CCAMLR). The vessel had repeatedly changed its name and flag, thus hindering the application of existing EU disciplinary proceedings.
Spain is one of the few countries having domestic legislation for marine fisheries sanctions on nationals who serve on convenience flag vessels. These regulations prohibit enrolment for positions of command in vessels from third countries without prior notification to the General Secretariat of Fisheries, as well as the performance by nationals of EU member states of paid work aboard vessels on IUU fishing lists.
The ministry stresses that the Spanish lead in this area will soon be supplemented by ongoing legislative reforms, which aim to give Spain a solid legal framework in the fight against illegal fishing.
In a response to the EC consultation on the possible review of the Fishing Authorisation Regulation (FAR), the Spanish fisheries administration highlighted a pioneering action taken by the Spanish authorities to ensure that Spanish vessels fishing outside an FPA fulfil the same requirements as vessels operating under EU agreements.
In this regard, apart from the mandatory licensing of the third country, all Spanish vessels fishing outside EU waters must obtain a temporary fishing permit issued by the Spanish administration, which includes the requirement for the application of all relevant EU and RFMO legislation, as well as the relevant national regulations. The Spanish administration also applies a system of verification of licences allocated by third countries through the network of Spanish embassies and EU delegations, demanding proof of payment to the Treasury of the country concerned. In this way, it verifies the authenticity and validity of the licence and the transfer to the Treasury.
The measures taken by Spain to sanction its nationals involved in IUU fishing operations on board non-EU vessels pave the way for a more effective fight against IUU fishing, as they reach out to those beneficiaries of IUU operations that usually escape sanction. Similarly, the system put in place by Spain for delivering fishing authorisation to any Spanish vessel fishing outside EU waters is a positive step towards better monitoring of fishing operations by EU vessels, whether they fish under an SFPA or not. Both measures should be promoted as examples to be followed by EU member states, under the control of the European Commission, as the Spanish legislation allowing these measures to be taken does not exist in most EU member states, or at EU level.
Actions taken are within the requirements of the EU IUU Regulation which foresees prevention and sanctions against EU nationals supporting or engaged in IUU fishing. They also fall within the basic principles on fishing fleet control by EU member states as set out in the Control and Fisheries Authorisation Regulations.