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Oceans and fisheries

EU fisheries control system

The role of the EU fisheries control system is to ensure that the rules of the common fisheries policy are applied and implemented in practice.


The aim of the EU fisheries control system is to ensure that the rules of the common fisheries policy (CFP) are applied correctly so that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and can continue to provide a source of healthy food for EU citizens.

Control measures include

  • the monitoring and registration of catches that are extracted from the seas and oceans by the EU fishing fleet
  • controls on access to waters (e.g fishing licences)
  • fishing effort (e.g. vessels tonnage and engine power)
  • technical measures (e.g. rules on fishing gears)

Fisheries rules and control systems are set at EU level, but each EU country is responsible for enforcing them through their own national control systems that comply with the Fisheries Control System.

EU countries must have inspection and enforcement measures in place to identify infringements and sanction offenders at every stage of the supply chain: from catching to landing and first sale and all the way to the retail sale. 

The EU fisheries control system utilises modern technologies to support these inspections and control measures.


The principal actors in the EU fisheries control system are

  • European Commission
  • European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA)
  • National competent authorities

Other stakeholders such as masters, fishing vessels' licence holders and fisheries operators are also actors in the EU fisheries control system.

These actors have obligations to comply with, ensure control, enforcement and inspection of the rules of the common fisheries policy (CFP).

In the industry, it is necessary to comply with the rules set by the EU legislative framework. One key obligation is to report catches accurately.

National competent authorities

National authorities and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA – see below)) coordinate and conduct key actions including the monitoring and inspection of fishing activity in the EU.

If necessary, EU countries apply sanctions to those who infringe on the CFP rules and attribute points in case of serious infringement.

European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA)

To encourage closer collaboration and exchange of best practice between EU countries, EFCA organises joint control campaigns (Joint Deployment Programmes-JDP), where inspectors from different EU countries, as well as non-EU countries (in the case of international JDP organised in the framework of regional fisheries management organisations - RFMO) join forces.

They also provide trainings and the sharing of best practises on fisheries inspections and control related issues between EU countries. These trainings are also organised for inspectors in non-EU countries in the framework of EU cooperation programmes in the developing countries (i.e. PESCAO Programme)

European Commission

The European Commission has a duty to control and evaluate the application of the rules of the common fisheries policy by EU countries. This task is performed through audits, verifications, inspections and inquiries. 

When the European Commission finds that national authorities are not enforcing fisheries control rules properly, there are various options exist to remedy the identified shortcomings. These include

  • initiation of an administrative inquiry with the concerned EU country. This may require the EU country to investigate and resolve the identified irregularities and, if necessary, provide the European Commission with additional information.
  • establishment of an action plan. This is a collaborative process where the Commission and the EU country resolve the issues through the implementation of a structured roadmap to address the identified shortcomings within a specific time frame.
  • informal dialogue with the EU countries concerned through the EU Pilot. 
  • launch of infringement procedures which may result in proceedings before the European Union Court of Justice.

In addition to the measures outlined above, if necessary, the European Commission may interrupt, and eventually suspend the funding provided under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF). In cases where a Member State has exceeded quota allocations, the European Commission may impose a deduction from future fishing opportunities.