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22,000 EU Vessels Fishing Outside EU Waters Highlights Need for Greater Transparency

MADRID - The recently-updated website has today revealed that 22,085 EU vessels have operated in non-EU waters since 2008. The list, however, falls short on European vessels operating under private agreements with African countries which remain completely under the radar. Oceana is therefore calling on EU Ministers in the upcoming Council of Ministers in June to back new regulation that would ensure these vessels adhere to EU controls and standards.

“These vessels operate in a total lack of transparency and control and should not have the same access to the European market as operators that adhere to EU environmental and labour standards. This is a loophole that makes the EU fleet vulnerable to illegal activities. It must be addressed or the Council of Ministers will fail to implement a fundamental objective of the Common Fisheries Policy, which requires transparency and sustainability in all fishing operations. The benefits of cleaning up the EU fleet far outweigh any argument of unnecessary red tape”, said María José Cornax, fisheries director for Oceana in Europe.

The regulation governing the activities of Europe’s external fishing fleet is under review. In December last year, the European Commission released a proposal that is now being negotiated with Member States and the EU Parliament. Oceana and its allies are calling for it to include an important measure against illegal fishing: the creation of a public register with data on private and chartering agreements, that includes unique vessel identifiers (IMO numbers) in order to track all vessels’ compliance history. was launched back in July 2015 and for the first time-ever made public data about the EU long-distance fleet. The new set of data released today includes all official authorisations granted by the EU between 2008 and 2015.

However, when it comes to the activities of the EU fleet in non-EU waters neither the European Commission nor national governments have a full understanding of who mans the vessels and what they are doing in the waters. This lack of transparency makes it impossible to effectively monitor the fleet and exposes the EU to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which ultimately deprives coastal communities from their livelihoods, endangers threatened species, damages marine habitats and overexploits fish stocks.


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Oceana is the largest international ocean conservation and advocacy organization. Oceana works to protect and restore the world’s oceans through targeted policy campaigns.

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