During its meeting held in Vigo, hybrid for the first time, EFCA Administrative Board adopted the Annual Report reflecting all the activities undertaken by the EFCA during 2021, an outstanding year for EFCA due to increased resources and growing tasks.
Fabrizio Donatella, Director of Fisheries Policy Atlantic, North Sea, Baltic and Outermost Regions in the Directorate General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the European Commission (EC), has been elected the new Chairman of the EFCA Administrative Board.
In 2021, the European Fisheries Control Agency combined its core tasks of operational coordination and fisheries control with its contribution to the EU Coast Guard cooperation.
These were the main highlights:
- In its primary role, organising operational coordination of fisheries control and inspection activities by the Member States, in 2021 all six Joint Deployment Plans (NAFO/NEAFC, North Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Western Waters, Mediterranean & Eastern Atlantic) were implemented as planned, keeping the measures and protocols set due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Specifically, the activity focused on joint coordination and enhancement of the potential of national enforcement services to apply the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy in a uniform and effective manner. The cooperative efforts led to 53 567 coordinated inspections, and 4 031 inspections reported with at least one suspected infringement. In accordance with the results of the regional risk analysis, priority was given to the control of fisheries with the highest risks.
- During 2021, the work programme was amended to cover three new projects subsidised by grants in the frame of the European Maritime Fisheries and aquaculture Fund (EMFAF), and additional budget was granted to EFCA to provide the necessary operational capacity for assisting the Member States and the European Commission in the monitoring, control and surveillance regime harnessed to the Common Fisheries Policy, including the measures entailed by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the UK.
- A Virtual Coordination Network (VCN) was established in the North Sea and Western Waters JDPs aiming to enhance a common situational awareness picture. The VCN also plays an important role on assess the impacts to control in EU waters due to divergences between the UK and EU regulations and was a key channel of communication between the EC, Members States and EFCA concerning UK fisheries related issues and a main element to coordinate control activities.
- EFCA cooperated with the Control Expert Groups of the main regional bodies created in the framework of regionalisation, such as BALTFISH, Scheveningen, NWW and SWW CEGs. The main areas of activities were the common understanding on the application of control rules; regarding the implementation of the Landing Obligation, risk assessment, evaluation of compliance and remote electronic monitoring.
- In the international dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy, EFCA continued to assist the European Commission in the fight against Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing activities, and to cooperate with third countries and international organisations dealing with fisheries, such as Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (namely, NAFO, NEAFC, ICCAT and GFCM).
- In the framework of the five-year EU funded PESCAO project, including a component aiming to improve the fight against IUU fishing activities in Western Africa, EFCA continued to provide technical assistance to the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC), the Fisheries Committee for the Western Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) and their member countries, in a coordinated manner, using the experience gained in the EU context.
- The Tripartite Working Agreement (TWA) with EMSA and Frontex, which aims to support national authorities carrying out Coast Guard Functions and to provide assistance and expertise on coordination and fisheries control using the means available in the agencies, was renewed, replacing the first TWA signed in 2017 setting the foundations for this cooperation, chaired by EFCA during the first half of 2021. As a key outcome of this chairmanship, the European Commission presented the Practical Handbook on European Cooperation on Coast Guard Functions.
- Another important area in EFCA’s work is training, as a capacity building tool. Training activities are crucial to guarantee a fair and equitable treatment to the Union operators. Last year 1421 officials were trained, including by e-learning.
- EFCA’s chartered offshore patrol vessels -the Lundy Sentinel, and Aegis since September 2021-provided a robust platform for fisheries inspections leading to a total of 77 inspections and 22 suspected infringements detected. The EFCA chartered OPVs contributed to the implementation of JDPs in the EU sea basins by adding capacity to fisheries control operations outside the territorial waters of MS and providing a platform to deploy multinational Member State inspection teams. This promoted transparency and a level playing field and fostered a good exchange of knowledge and expertise. The Lundy Sentinel also included a light Remotely Piloted Aircraft System on board.
- In relation to EFCA’s information systems, these ones enabled the collection of data from each Member State providing details of their fishing vessels, catches and other such information. Overall, EFCA was sent Electronic Reporting System-logbook data from 6054 vessels in 12 Member States and Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data from different vessels, throughout all Member States. The EFCA IMS application was used by a large community of Member States users as a support to fisheries control and activities against IUU fishing.
- In April 2021 EFCA Administrative Board appointed Susan Steele as Executive Director of the European Fisheries Control Agency, who took office in September 2021.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank sincerely EFCA staff for their welcome, excellence and professionalism. Also, I want to thank the Member States and the European Commission for their trust in me in the important task we have ahead. This is an agency dedicated to sustainability – who lives by living blue in its actions. We are committed to setting sails as we move forward towards the vision of a sustainable future for our oceans,” said Susan Steele EFCA Executive Director.
EFCA is a European Union agency that promotes the highest common standards for the control, inspection and surveillance under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). EFCA was established to organise operational coordination activities by the Member States and to assist them to cooperate so as to comply with the CFP rules in order to ensure its effective and uniform application.
The added value of the work of the agency lies in its contribution to sustainable fisheries by enhancing compliance with conservation and management measures and to a European-wide level playing field for the fishing industry.
The Administrative Board is the governing and controlling body of EFCA. It is composed of six representatives of the European Commission and one representative per Member State. The Administrative Board holds a meeting at least once a year.