Netherlands accused of failing to report accurate catch totals
Environmental law group ClientEarth and Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) have joined forces to take legal action against the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) for failing to check the misrepresentation fish catches and overfishing, in direct violation of European Union laws.
The move comes a year after the organizations launched legal action against the Dutch government for systematically failing to check the amount of fish brought ashore from refrigerated cargo ships, more commonly known as reefers, and instead relying to the estimated data declared by the fishermen. in their logbooks.
A formal request was sent to NVWA in June 2022, demanding that the agency improve its monitoring system, as required by EU fisheries law, to protect fish stocks and the livelihoods of fishers. small scale and low impact.
The challenge was sparked by an investigation by Dutch newspaper Groene Amsterdammer, which highlighted problems with the Dutch fisheries control system. Its investigation revealed a serious lack of inspectors to adequately monitor the 400 million kilograms of frozen herring, mackerel and blue whiting landed in the Netherlands each year, and the delegation to a private company without the power to control the landed crates of frozen fish on behalf of port authorities.
Under EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) rules, fishing companies must weigh frozen pelagic fish products before landing. The NVWA is responsible for checking and properly weighing a legally mandated sample at port to check against declared weights, and claims to inspect at least 10% of the country’s catch.
In 2020, the European Commission finalized an investigation into the matter which concluded that millions of kilograms of illegal fish may have passed through Dutch ports in recent years and informed the country’s government that it did not comply with the EU fishing control rules. After what it described as an inadequate response from the Dutch government, the EC launched its infringement procedure in February 2022, calling on the Netherlands to ensure compliance with weighing, traceability and recording rules. captures. If the answer is not satisfactory, the EC may decide to take the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Simultaneously, LIFE and ClientEarth requested NVWA to rapidly improve its inspection process in 2021, but their request was denied. In a press release, the organizations said the rejection prompted them to take another action on June 29, asking for concrete evidence that there was no fraud. If convincing evidence to the contrary is not provided in the near future, they believe they “will have no choice but to go to court”.
“As the gateway for much of the EU’s fish to market, the Netherlands has a crucial gatekeeper role to play in preventing overfishing,” said specialist lawyer Nils Courcy. in fishing at ClientEarth. “It is abnormal and alarming that the Dutch authorities have rejected a request to properly verify what is removed from the sea and to impose appropriate control on their ships and ports. Their refusal to intervene sends the wrong signal – it seems they are saying that illegal fishing and overfishing can happen on their watch. We are now stepping up our actions and again asking the Dutch authorities to provide concrete evidence that there is no fraud. If we don’t see convincing evidence to the contrary, we will have no choice but to go to court.
In particular, the logbook records of the super trawler Margiris, owned by the Dutch company Parlevliet and Van der Plas, were requested. The activities of this vessel, which is the second largest trawler in the world, can process 250 metric tons (MT) of fish per day and transport 6,000 MT, are already under study. This follows the massive dumping of more than 100,000 blue whiting in the Bay of Biscay earlier this year after the trawler’s net broke.
LIFE executive secretary Brian O’Riordan said factory ships in the Netherlands “potentially under-declare thousands of tonnes of fish on each trip”.
“If true, it depletes the ocean of its planet-stabilizing ecosystems and unfairly deprives low-impact fishers and coastal communities of their source of livelihood,” he said. “It also undermines the whole EU marine management system and the scientific assessments that form the basis of EU fishing quotas.”
Photo courtesy of Wil Tilroe-Otte/Shutterstock