In his last appearance before the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee on September 22 nd 2004, Commissioner Franz Fischler presented his record of five years as Fisheries Commissioner. He made particular mention of how, during his mandate, the EU has promoted sustainable fishing beyond its own waters.
He highlighted the work of the EU in international fisheries fora to initiate measures in accordance with its 2002 plan of action to combat illegal fishing. Commissioner Fischler emphasised that 'the EU fully supports the contribution that trade-related measures can make in the fight against illegal fishing' . He also drew attention to the new approach being adopted by the EU towards FPAs, particularly with developing countries. He noted that 'such partnerships will be beneficial to all the parties concerned as they allow both for the protection of the EU distant water fleets' interests and EU action and support for the development of sustainable fisheries in the waters of the partner countries concerned'.
Other positive developments have included the strengthening of control through the application of the satellite-based Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) in the agreements with the Seychelles, Madagascar, Mozambique, the Comoros and Angola. The Commission will continue to encourage such initiatives.
Two areas of ACP-EU fisheries relations in the last five years into which the EU has put a lot of effort, are: the fight against illegal fishing; and strengthening the control capacity of the ACP countries. Some may argue that these efforts are directed more at protecting EU's activities through eliminating unfair competition by fleets fishing illegally, rather than ensuring the protection of the third-state's resources. But overall, there has been a positive impact on the policing capacity of ACP countries.
Adopting market-related measures to stop illegally caught fish coming onto the EU market is certainly something that needs further concrete development. It is also important that care be taken to ensure that this also applies to fish products coming onto the EU market caught by EU fleets. For example, the degree of market-access control applied to fish caught by EU fleets fishing under bilateral fisheries agreements is not as stringent as that applied to similar ACP products. Increased efforts to ensure harmonisation of such standards across EU member states is urgently required in order to ensure fair play.