Today, the EU Social Partners in Sea Fisheries – ETF and Europêche – adopted a joint resolution on the socio-economic impact of the EU landing obligation on the fishing industry.
The regulation on the landing obligation was adopted in 2015 and has been gradually implemented since then. It aims at reducing the unwanted catch by obliging fishing operators to land (bring to shore) all caught fish. On one hand, it is supposed to allow for better monitoring of the use of fishing quotas, and on the other, it should incentivise the operators to invest in more selective gear.
However, the landing obligation was introduced without any prior impact assessment of the socio-economic and safety consequences. It is already evident that the measure poses several concerns regarding the well-being of the fishers and economic performance of the sector.
As all catch has to be landed, the issue of ‘choke species’ arises. The quota for specific species is very quickly used, leading to area closures, which means that fishing opportunities for other species are impacted. In addition, as fish not suitable for direct human consumption also have to be landed, the economic performance of the fishing sector is affected. The obligation is therefore contradictory to Art. 39 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU which stipulates the objective ‘to ensure the optimum utilisation of the factors of production, and thus to ensure a fair standard of living for the fisheries community by assuring the availabilities of supplies’.
Another issue concerns the storage of catch. An increased volume of fish on board impacts working conditions. At the same time, due to gross tonnage limitations, it is not possible to use larger vessels that could accommodate this increase. The operators, therefore, need to make more fishing trips to compensate for the losses linked to landing of unwanted catch. Fishers, in turn, face more work on board due to increased load handing.
The landing obligation has therefore led to increased labour on-board, reduced resting time and underutilisation of rightful fishing opportunities.
This is why the EU Social Partners agreed to call on the European Commission to revise the EU landing obligation so that it is consistent with other legal instruments adopted by the EU, in particular, Directive 2017/159 and the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. You can read the full joint resolution here.