Two advisory councils to the European Commision are pushing it to take more action against “flags of convenience.”
The Long-Distance Fisheries Advisory Council (LDAC), comprised of 50 organizations from a dozen E.U. member-states, represents the seafood industry and other industries and interests involved in Europe’s distant-water fishing sector. The Market Advisory Council (MAC) represents the seafood value-chain and has 59 members in 12 member-states. Both have status as formal advisory bodies for the European Union on matters relating to fisheries agreements with third countries, trade relations and the international market for fishery products, and relations with regional fisheries organizations to which the E.U. is a contracting party.
The two groups released a joint opinion on 8 October urging the European Union to boost its leadership in eradicating a currently legal process where countries allow marine vessels, including fishing vessels, to use their flag without adequate monitoring of activity. Flags of convenience are frequently used by those engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, “resulting in serious economic and environmental damage, with losses of billions to the world economy, as well as data deficits that distort scientific assessments of stocks and deprive the communities of local and artisanal fishing populations of an essential food for their food security and economic sustenance.”
“Another of the problems involved in these abusive practices of changing the flag to evade the rules is that ship-owners are able to avoid sanctions for infractions committed under a previously-used flag without the possibility of traceability or accountability,” the groups said.
The LDAC and MAC praised the E.U. for its work in recent years to achieve better and stricter transparency standards, including its support for the Global Register of Fishing Vessels and the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). But they offered 17 additional recommendations that would close legal loopholes and help the E.U. work better together with other countries and fishery-management organizations to eliminate the use of flags of convenience entirely.
Photo courtesy of Consejo Consultivo de la Flota Comunitaria de Larga Distancia