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Oceans and fisheries

Infringements and sanctions

If, through monitoring, surveillance or inspections, national authorities identify an infringement of the CFP rules, they are required to initiate proceedings to sanction the offenders. 

EU countries are responsible for establishing their own sanctioning systems but to ensure a level playing field they must conform to the requirements of the EU laws.

These requirements include the obligation for sanctions to be ‘dissuasive, proportionate and effective’, to consider the seriousness and potential economic benefit of the offence as well as the prejudice to fishing resources and marine environments.

EU countries are required to have a point system to sanction fishing vessel masters and licence holders when they commit serious infringements.

The Commission may verify the application of the sanctioning systems in the EU countries through investigations and audits. EU countries also report the number of detected infringements as part of a five-yearly report on the implementation of the EU control legislation.

EU point system for serious fisheries infringements

The Control Regulation provides for the use of a point system to sanction serious infringements. 

Every time a serious infringement is committed, national authorities should sanction the offender by attributing the appropriate number of points. Serious infringements detected by other EU countries must be communicated to the EU country concerned.

The number of points to be attributed for specific infringements is fixed in detailed rules. In case of serious infringements, points are attributed not only to the holder of a fishing licence, but also to the vessel master.

Any vessel that accumulates more than a certain number of points in a three-year period will have its fishing licence suspended for at least two months. For repeat offences the penalty increases to 4, 8 and 12 months respectively. If, after the end of the fourth suspension period, the offender again incurs the necessary number of points, the fishing licence must be withdrawn for good.

If the offender does not commit any serious infringements within three years of the previous such infringement, all points on the fishing license are deleted and they start again with a clean slate. Points remain with the vessel and are, therefore, transferred to the new owner if the vessel is sold on.