Ireland, Spain worst for exceeding EU fish quotas

Ireland and Spain have the worst records of all EU member states for exceeding fishing quotas, according to a report by the European…

Ireland and Spain have the worst records of all EU member states for exceeding fishing quotas, according to a report by the European Commission today.

Britain, Denmark and Sweden are the only states fully monitoring EU fishing quota restrictions, the latest fisheries 'scoreboard' reveals.

Failure to enforce fisheries measures works against the interests of fishermen as it leads to overfishing, depleted fish stocks, smaller catches and shrinking incomes
EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg

It shows that illegal overfishing - blamed for the failure of dwindling stocks to recover despite years of fishing limits - is still a major problem.

The European Court of Justice recently found Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Portugal Finland and Sweden guilty of exceeding the fishing quotas set by EU ministers each year.

On other environmental issues, today's report says only Sweden submitted its 2004 national report on shark-finning on time. Five member states, including Ireland, failed to submit theirs.

Today's report is the third evaluating how member states are keeping Brussels informed - as required under a 2002 agreement - of their national fisheries control efforts.

Later this year a new EU fisheries control agency comes into force, improving cooperation between national monitoring teams and the current Commission's 30-strong inspectorate overseeing the national inspection authorities.

"Failure to enforce fisheries measures works against the interests of fishermen as it leads to overfishing, depleted fish stocks, smaller catches and shrinking incomes." said EU fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg.

"Member states must urgently work with stakeholders, the Commission and the European fisheries control agency, which will be soon up and running, to improve overall compliance."

The report follows last month's agreement on another round of fisheries belt-tightening after grim warnings about collapsing fish stocks from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

It recommended the complete closure of the worst-hit fishing grounds, but ministers agreed instead to a 15% reduction in cod fishing in the North Sea, Irish Sea and off the west coast of Scotland.

The measure was described by Britain's fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw as striking a balance between the needs of conservation and the long-term survival of traditional fishing communities.

PA