Madrid, 22 October 2021As negotiations get underway in Brussels on future regulation of the fishing sector, Access Info is calling on EU Member States to support increased transparency in fisheries control, in line with the proposals made by the European Parliament in March 2021.

At stake is the reform of an existing rule, the controversial Article 113, which prohibits the European Commission from sharing fishing controls data with other persons, even with national and European parliamentarians, unless the relevant Member State has given express consent.

Access Info has repeatedly criticised this problematic secrecy clause, which dates back to 1993, long before the EU’s transparency norms were adopted, and violates the Aarhus Convention on access to environmental information and the principle, included in the EU Treaties, that the Union shall work “as openly as possible”, with only limited exceptions as required by Article 15 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

This undemocratic rule currently makes it impossible for civil society and fishing associations to oversee the control of fishing activities, preventing the public from knowing if the seafood on their plates comes from sustainable sources.

Making essential information public on how fishing activities are being controlled, how many infringements are identified and which sanctions applied is crucial to ensure fishers across Europe are treated fairly, illegal fishing is properly tackled, and sustainability rules respected.

Access Info has in the past week written to all the EU Member States Permanent Representations in Brussels with formal requests for their position on transparency of fisheries control.

This is after letters from Access Info sent in July 2021 to EU governments have largely gone unanswered. The letters, sent in collaboration with national civil society partners and in local languages, have only received responses from Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, and Poland. These were in all cases unclear as to their position on greater fisheries transparency, with the only exception of the French Minister of the Sea, who is open to further discussions and being advised on this matter.

The final shape of the revised Fisheries Control Regulation will be decided in three-way interinstitutional negotiations known as “trilogues”, which are expected to run through the first half of 2022. These negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council, in representation of EU Member States, are notoriously hard for the public follow, which is why we are calling on Member States to be open and tell citizens about the position that they are taking on transparency of fishing.

These trilogue negotiations are taking place in a context in which Member States, meeting in the EU AGRIFISH Council in June 2021, proposed to weaken the fisheries control system, for example by legalising misreporting of catches and excluding unlicensed fishing from the list of serious infringements, while not pronouncing publicly on transparency.

Martina Tombini, Researcher and Campaigner at Access Info, explained the importance of securing transparency:

“There are many concerns that fishing in EU waters is not being sufficiently controlled. Only with transparency we can verify what is being done and what isn’t to stop illegal fishing. This is about major threats to the sustainability of marine resources, our food security, and the livelihoods of local communities.

It is imperative that what has been achieved on sustainable and transparent fishing in the European Parliament’s plenary vote is maintained in trilogue negotiations.”

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info added:

“We are calling on all EU Member States to take a firm stance in favour of transparency and to amend Article 113 which has never been revised in the light of modern openness principles.

We are further urging support for the Parliament’s revision to Article 93a of the Fisheries Control Regulation which will require that more detailed information is reported annually to the European Commission and that it is made public proactively on the Commission’s website.”

The European Parliament vote in favour of greater transparency in March 2021 came after a year-long campaign by Access Info and over 70 civil society organisations, including members of the EU Fisheries Control Coalition.

Access Info will continue to campaign on these issues as trilogues move forward, emphasising the importance of greater transparency as part of the EU’s commitment to ensuring a green and sustainable future.

There’s still time to join the campaign!

Would you like to join the campaign to make EU fisheries control more transparent and include your signature on the letters we are sending to national governments? Get in touch with the Access Info Team by sending an email to Martina Tombini.

For more information, please contact:

Martina Tombini, Researcher and Campaigner | Access Info Europe
martina [at] +34 637 226 609