21st February

Danish dismissal of fishing violation undermines penalty point system

A decision by Danish authorities not to apply penalty points to a Danish fishing vessel found guilty of fishing in Irish waters without adequate quota has been slammed by the Irish Fish Producers Organisation. The unnamed vesseld was fishing in the Celtic Sea without quota.

"It's simple. Danish control authorities have now endorsed illegal fishing in the Irish EEZ," remarked CEO, Francis O'Donnell.

spfa patrol

The Irish Naval Service works with the SFPA to detect contraventions of sea-fisheries law

"They know the vessel had no quota and are refusing to apply the penalty points. So I supose it's fair for all vessels to now target fisheries where they have no quota anywhere within the EU. Just go and find it [quota] afterwards when you are caught," he said.

O'Donnell added that the situation was "farcical" and is now a "major challenge" for the European Commission as presumably it will open legal debate.

"Some Member States are operating a different system which disadvantages other fleets. An Irish vessel fishing in Danish waters could challenge any penalty points applied to it for infringements. The scenarios are endless," he remarked.

Penalty point system

Ireland implemented the Penalty Point System through SI No 3/2014. Under the control regulation, the system allows for penalties to be applied to the vessel's capacity and the licence holder.

"In Ireland if you're unfortunate enough to get notification from the Sea-fisheries Protection Authority that you have received penalty points, you have 28 days to make your appeal. If the judgment is in your favour and you win your case however, the way the SI is drafted you will still retain the penalty points, the vessel's capacity, kilowatts, tonnage retains them and so does the licence owner." 

O'Donnell believes an unlevel playing field is now clearly operating.

"It's unrealistic to think that vessels from other Member States should be treated any different to Irish vessels. Detection of illegal fishing by Irish and non-Irish vessels in our EEZ is what the Irish Navy and the SFPA is charged to do. Ireland was first to implement the Electronic Recording and Reporting system (ERS), others followed kicking and screaming. It's questionable if data transfer between Member States is at the level it should be," he told Inshore Ireland.

"Refusal of the Danish Authorities to apply penality points in this instance demonstrates that some European control authorities are taking an al la carte approach to the Control Regulation. This has to be viewed as very serious when one considers the landing obligation now in place."

SFPA Comment

A statement to Inshore Ireland, the Sea-fisheries Protection Authority, notes that during a 15-month period to March 31, 2015, it had made one determination to propose points for 'serious infringements by a non-Irish vessel'.

Through a cross-check of various remote-sensing data (VMS and ERS), it had detected a vessel fishing for a species for which its Flag State did not have a quota.  The infringement was categorised as 'a serious offence under Annex XXX of the Implementing Rules Regulation'.

Under EU law, the final steps required to assign points to a fishing licence remain the matter for the competent authority of the Flag State. 

'In this instance, the Flag State has indicated that they are unwilling to progress the matter further. A subsequent quota swap between EU Member States provided quota for the vessel after the fishing. The SFPA maintains that no quota existed at the time of the fishing and is continuing to pursue the matter.'

The SFPA raised the matter with the EU Commission representative at an EFCA seminar in June who confirmed that any decision to apply points notified to a Flag State rests solely with that Flag State. Ireland has sought a meeting with the Danish Authorities on this issue.

Speaking to Inshore Ireland, SFPA chair Susan Steele said the points for serious infringements are "significant sanctions to deter non-compliance with the law across the EU" so that national quotas are continuously, fairly and sustainably managed.

She added that applying points to all vessels, regardless of nationality, found committing serious infringements was a "fundamental pillar of a level playing field. The SFPA is working to ensure that compliance is the norm for all vessels operating in our waters, irrespective of nationality, and to help protect and sustain Ireland's valuable fisheries on which the livelihoods of some 11,000 Irish fishing industry workers depend." 

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