Ensuring safer conditions for inspectors
As a sanitary precautionary approach in relation to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). EFCA developed a specific procedure for the operations on board of its inspection platforms, the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).
The procedure covered two main levels of measures relevant for the operations: measures for joining the EFCA chartered ships, and measures for inspecting fishing vessels.
The operations of the EFCA chartered vessels are subject to specific measures in order to respect COVID- 19 safety related requirements such as:
- Introduction of 17 days quarantine period for the crew
- PCR negative test requirement for EFCA and Member States deployed personnel on board
- Inspections on fishing vessels are subject to a strict safety Protocol
Moving to other inspection instruments
In order to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on fisheries control, inspection and MS enforcement, EFCA focused more on other instruments such as data monitoring and analysis, based on the EFCA methodology for compliance indicators (e.g., cross-checks of logbook and landing declaration and sales notes, to detect misreporting).
In this regard, EFCA also used other available tools, including but not limited to, additional surveillance flights in cooperation with Frontex, deployment of drones within the cooperation with EMSA, and analysis of satellite images from Copernicus.
EFCA Coordination Centre (CC) activities were implemented on line via “Virtual CC”, which allowed EFCA staff, MS’ experts and personnel from other Agencies, to participate in the daily coordination activities during the specific campaigns and surveillance operations (e.g North Sea and Western Waters, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Levantine Sea with aerial surveillance, Strait of Sicily and Adriatic).
Supporting the Union and the Member States
EFCA carried on assisting the European Union to fulfil its international control and inspection obligations. The operational plan of the OPVs had to be changed and adapted prioritising the implementation of the rules from RFMOs, such a NEAFC and NAFO.
Following a request for assistance from the European Commission regarding the impact of COVID-19 on fisheries control, inspection and MS enforcement EFCA adapted the control plans in concert with MS and the EC where needed. Together with MS EFCA analysed the risks affected by the lowered monitoring and control levels caused by COVID-19 and develop specific actions and mitigation measures for each fleet segments and/or campaign under the control plans.
The issues discussed included:
- the evaluation of the changes in the likelihood/threat of each risk;
- updating of the control plans priorities, and;
- the development of mitigation measures and specific actions.
It was concluded that whilst the type of risks would largely remain the same, their likelihood of occurrence could significantly increase due to the reduction of monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) effort.
MS were also asked to update the level of fishing and control activities in the different joint deployment plans (JDPs). EFCA compiled and exchanged this information with MS and the Commission to ensure a complete situation was available and updated when needed.
Most of the meetings and training actions with EFCA stakeholders have been maintained without any disruptions. All JDPs, training actions and meetings with MS experts and other stakeholders were delivered in accordance to plan.
At the corporate level, all the processes and procedures were revised and adapted in consideration of the teleworking measures. Electronic workflows were implemented and the digitalisation of the communication tools was also reinforced. These measures had already started and were accelerated in this context, taking into account the wider EU objectives and the EU Agencies priorities, such as the Green Deal and Digital Transition, which respond to EU citizens’ expectations for change and reflect the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals.