On 16 November 2020, Greek Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Emmanouil Fragkos of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“Turkish IUU fishing activities are continuing unhindered at the expense of Aegean fishing fleets that comply with the rules.
The Commission has indicated that it is aware of the increasing number of IUU fishing operations by Turkish vessels in waters off the Greek islands, that it shares the concerns of Greece in this connection (Ε-004566/2019) and that it has expressed its condemnation of Turkish actions. Furthermore, it has raised the matter directly with Turkey, referring to the IUU Regulation, and with the organisation responsible for regional fisheries management. It goes on to say that, in the face of Turkish refusal to comply with international fisheries management rules, it is now considering the adoption of measures such as a fisheries ban or at least the imposition of duties on Turkish fish exports in a bid to bring Turkey into line with sustainable fisheries rules.
Greece provides the second largest market for Turkish fish in the EU (Turkish Statistical Institute – Turkstat), with the value of Turkish fish exports to Greece having risen from EUR 32.1 million (in 2017) to over EUR 67.1 million (Independent Authority for Public Revenue – IAPR, 2019).
Last year, 13 781 tonnes of imported Turkish fresh fish were cleared through customs, and released for free circulation in Greece and onward to other European countries.
In view of this:
1. Can the Commission say whether this practice is in line with internal market rules?
2. Is Greece entitled to block certain imports in response to Turkish IUU fishing practices?”
On 25 January 2021, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The Commission reiterates that imports of most fishery products require a catch certificate validated by the flag State of the catching vessel as provided by the regulation (EC) 1005/2008 (IUU Regulation). In this regard, the EU Member States are empowered to check and possibly verify the content of catch certificates, in case of doubts concerning the veracity of the information contained therein.
To this end, in case catch certificates issued by a third country raise doubts by one or several Member States, on the basis of information obtained about IUU fishing activities, the Member States have the possibility to submit verification requests to the third country, regarding the information contained in the catch certificate.
In this process, should the reply from the third country not provide pertinent information, the products can be refused. Under the IUU Regulation, it is the task of the EU Member States concerned to take the final individual decisions.
The Commission as well as the flag State concerned should be notified, by the competent authorities of the Member States, of refusals of importation. To note also that possibilities of appeal against decisions of refusal of importation exist under Article 18(4) of the IUU Regulation.”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/fisherman-fishing-boats-networks-4984138/