Brussels, 26 Nov 2003
EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, Franz Fischler, has claimed that some Member States are not supplying accurate data on their annual fish catches to the scientists whose reports form the basis of Commission policy.
Speaking to the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries on 24 November, Mr Fischler defended the latest report from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) - the body that offers scientific recommendations on fish levels to the European Commission and other North Atlantic authorities: 'The problem is not [...] that ICES is producing poor reports, but that it is sometimes given inaccurate landing figures, or no information on discards.'
'Attempting to prevent us from forming the full picture needed to manage our fisheries resources, by keeping vital data from our scientists, is simply unacceptable,' added Mr Fischler. 'The Member States have an obligation to keep accurate records on catch landed and discards, and to make this information available to the scientists. Last week in the Council I reminded the Member States of their duties in this respect and I will not shy away from taking appropriate legal steps here if necessary.'
Apart from inaccurate reporting, the ICES report also states that agreed quotas are not being respected. Landings of haddock for 2003 are predicted to be about twice the agreed total allowable catch (TAC), while whiting catches are set to rise 20 per cent above their TAC level.
Mr Fischler stressed that the Commission's scientific and technical committee agrees with the ICES analysis that many stocks have been heavily overfished and are at historical lows. ICES has recommended closing more fisheries in the coming year, and its list of stocks in urgent need of a recovery plan has been extended from nine to thirteen.