Technical Measures Regulation: BLOOM responds to a public consultation

In the light of a report on the implementation of the new regulation on “Technical Measures”,[1] the European Commission launched a public consultation until 15 February 2021 to ask stakeholders whether the regulation was well and sufficiently implemented. As it concerns in particular the regulation banning electric fishing in European waters, BLOOM responded to the consultation by focusing on questions concerning “innovation” and compliance or non-compliance with the regulation.

Rather than enforcing its own regulations, the Commission clearly prefers to stir up the debate by asking what people think about it. BLOOM therefore advises the Commission to enforce the laws and assume its role as guardian of the Treaties rather than holding rhetorical public consultations.

> Read our response to the public consultation in English

The dangers of innovation

In particular, BLOOM alerts the European Commission to the dangers of technological innovation without taking into account the fundamental pillars of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), namely the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach. It is also essential to study the socio-economic impacts of these innovations on existing fleets. The pursuit of profitability can in no way guarantee environmental and social progress, as the Commission seems to believe. These three aspects – ignored by the European Commission, which had, it should be recalled, given a green light to the uncontrolled and totally illegal development of electric fishing – are absent from a recent ICES advice on innovative gear on which the Commission wishes to base its future report. Its errors on electric fishing are having serious consequences in the North Sea with the closure of the Dunkirk fish auction and the bankruptcy of many small-scale fishers, and we are unfortunately very likely to see these same mistakes repeated with the development of new fishing techniques such as those using pressurized water.

An unenforced regulation

Furthermore, we call on the Commission to enforce existing regulation, instead of producing new ones that will not be enforced either. In particular, we would like to recall that the Dutch industry has been ignoring European law on electric fishing for more than 10 years, without the Commission sanctioning the Netherlands for fraud. Beyond these illegal licences, some fraudulent practices by trawlers fishing with (or without) electricity often make the headlines in the Dutch press: fishing in protected areas, illegal mesh size, undersized fish, etc. These frauds, known to all, including the Commission, have reached such proportions that the Dutch fishermen’s organisation Vissersbond sent a letter asking all its members to stop cheating on the mesh size. Indeed, their analysis of the catches landed at the auction showed a too large proportion of small sole, inevitably as a result of the use of a non-regulatory mesh size. The control of fishing activities is therefore crucial, as it is well known that regulations are violated day after day. If, in the short term, fraud benefits cheaters, it is detrimental to all in the long term. It is therefore up to the European Commission to take action to ensure that laws are not only existing on paper. This will involve more than endless consultations.

Notes and references

[1] According to Article 31 of the Technical Measures Regulation 1241/2019, the European Commission is obliged to produce a report on the implementation of this Regulation.


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