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EU fishing rules are fully operational: commission

by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) April 12, 2011
A new system of fishery control with continent-wide, common rules and penalties is now fully operational, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

"With the adoption of detailed rules on how to carry out controls throughout the market chain 'from net to plate', the EU now has the means to break with the past and establish a real culture of compliance to stop overfishing and help make EU fisheries truly sustainable," the EU executive said in a statement.

The new rules include a points system that can see repeat offenders' licenses withdrawn for illegal fishing. The points system, however, will only enter into force on January 1, 2012, to give countries time to prepare.

"If we can't enforce our own rules, this undermines the credibility of the whole common fisheries policy, no matter how sound it may be," EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said in a statement.

"We now have a comprehensive system of control and enforcement and I expect compliance with EU fishing rules to improve from now on."

The new rules should allow officials to trace every fish from the time it is caught until it reaches the consumer, enabling national fishing authorities to spot wrongdoing at any point in the market chain and tracing the culprit.

"Inspections will be done in the same way all over Europe. Data are collected and cross-checked electronically. And once the product reaches the stores, the consumer will know it has been fished legally," said the statement.

"If someone breaks the law, they will face equally severe sanctions wherever they are and whatever their nationality."

Fines will be at least five times the value of the illegally caught fish.

Environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the announcement, saying "enforcement means nothing without effective rules."

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