- The length of the national infringement procedures varies considerably between Member States, mainly depending on the procedure implemented based on administrative or criminal law and the possibility of appeal.
- The most common type of infringement is the following: Not fulfilling the obligations to record and report catch or catch-related data, including data to be transmitted by satellite vessel monitoring system.
- Since 2014, all Member States have implemented the point system. Nevertheless, the research has identified substantial differences in the way the Member States allocate points.
- It is recommended to simplify the criteria for the implementation of the point system; to provide guidelines for the definition of serious infringements; and to increase transparency in the access to information on points.
- Moreover, it is recommended to increase the number of controls at sea, to consider enhanced cooperation between relevant authorities and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), and to harmonise the level of detail of national registries for a level playing field.
This study on the implementation of the current EU fisheries control system by Member States presents an update on a Parliament study from 2014, entitled ‘The CFP-Infringement Procedures and Imposed Sanctions throughout the European Union’. The present study examines the years 2014-2019 and was aiming to cover the state of play in all 22 coastal EU Member States.
The research centres on the infringement procedures and sanctions imposed by EU Member States in the field of fisheries and also provides an overview of the application of the point system for serious infringements in the different Member States. The aim is to establish background knowledge for the current legislative proposal for a revision of the current fisheries control system (see 2018/0193(COD). The ultimate objective is to contribute to the promotion of a level playing field in fisheries throughout the EU, promoting the equal application of infringement procedures and aiming at the harmonisation of sanctions imposed on EU vessels.
This paper has been prepared during the period March to June 2020 by Blomeyer & Sanz on the basis of desk research, stakeholder interviews, data requests addressed to all 22 Member States with a coastline. In addition this research presents seven case studies for Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania and Spain.
Infringement procedures in the different Member States might fall in the sphere of administrative and/or criminal law. Member States are free to choose the system they consider most adequate to guarantee the enforcement of the CFP rules. Most Member States have adopted administrative procedures, although in most cases, the administrative procedures are complemented with criminal procedures.
In most Member States, the competent authorities for sanctions and controls depend on the different Ministries of Agriculture and/or Fisheries at the national level. Nevertheless, the administrative organisation of the Member State influences the structure of the authorities (i.e. Germany and Spain have both national and regional competent authorities).
The average length of infringement procedures varies considerably between different countries. In some Member States infringement procedures are completed within only days whilst in others this can take several years. It depends on whether procedures are mainly administrative, criminal, or a combination of both, and on whether appeals procedures are in place.
It is worth noting the considerable differences between Member States regarding the number of identified infringements. For example, with a total of 14,882 infringements, Italy and Spain together sum 80% of the total amount of infringements of all the Member States combined (15 Member States that provided data). It is important to note that the number of infringements will normally result in a lower number of cases initiated and sanctions applied, which is based on investigations carried out to determine whether there is a basis or not for case proceedings.
The most common infringements are:
- Not fulfilling its obligations to record and report catch or catch-related data, including data to be transmitted by satellite vessel monitoring system (34%) ;
- Fishing in a closed area or during a closed season, without or after attainment of a quota or beyond a closed depth (24%);
- Use of prohibited or non/compliant gear accordint to EU legislation (13%).
The following figure shows the number of infringements classified by type of serious infringements in the EU.
Regarding minimum and maximum economic sanctions laid down in national law, the main goal of the sanctions is to act as deterrent to those not complying with the rules of the CFP. It is very complex to compare the different sanctions in the Member States. For example, the standard of living varies considerably between different Member States, i.e. a sanction that is moderate in one Member States may be excessive and disproportionate in a different Member States. Sanctions range from a minimum of EUR 22 (serious infringement in Poland) to EUR 600,000 (very serious infringement in Spain.
One of the main goals of the sanctioning system is to ensure that sanctions should be a deterrent to those not complying with the rules of the CFP. In this sense, the Member States decide on the most adequate system of penalties and determine criteria for defining serious infringements. Concerning the point system, all Member States have implemented the system. Most of them have done this between 2013 and 2014, although there are some countries, such as Croatia, that only implemented it in 2017. In the case of Ireland, the implementation of the point system was in force from 2014 to 2016. Case study work identified substantial differences in the way the Member States allocate points. Moreover, it is worth noting the different systems implemented by certain Member States for rewarding good behavior, resulting in the subtraction of penalty points. Even if all the Member States have transposed the Fisheries Control Regulation in their national legislation, not all of them actually attribute points. With 3,210 cases where points were assigned, Italy has attributed more points than all other Member States combined (3,607 cases for 15 Member States that provided data).
On the Point System:
- To simplify the current complexity of the point system in the proposed regulation.
- To increase transparency in access to information related to the point system.
- Regarding the point system for serious infringements there appears to be a need for more careful consideration of what should be the definition of serious infringements and the criteria to be used.
- The point system should not result in disproportionate and severe sanctions and the permanent suspension of fishing licenses. Due to consideration should be given to the effectiveness of the sanctioning system in place.
- The differences and specificities according to regions/areas/fishery should be considered.
- To clearly specify how to apply the penalty point system and to indicate both aggravating and attenuating circumstances when assigning penalty points. It is important to consider circumstances on a case-by-case basis and allow for flexibility.
- To consider cooperation between national control authorities / EFCA and research institutes for more efficient data collection and high-qualitative data.
- To increase the number of controls at sea, which is particularly relevant in the context of the Last Haul programme and the control of the landing obligation.
- To introduce camera monitoring on vessels to allow a more effective control, but this should be carried out on a voluntary basis and with associated incentives.
- Consider the establishment of an EU register of infringements.
- To harmonise the level of detail included in the national registers of infringements.