The EU lends its flag to a large fleet of vessels that operate in distant waters, meeting our ever-growing demand for seafood by netting catch as far afield as Greenland the distant Pacific Island States, and in all of the world’s oceans.
All EU fishing vessels operating in third-country waters or on the high seas need an authorisation under the EU’s Fishing Authorisation Regulation (FAR). However, until now it was unknown how many boats operated in these waters, their names, and where and when they were authorised to fish.
WhoFishesFAR discloses this information for the first time ever, making it available to the general public. From 2008 to 2015 at least 22,085 fishing vessels operated under EU flags in external waters using a FAR authorization and are included in this database. The data have been provided by the European Commission and also includes additional information from 2006 to 2020, amounting to 23,239 unique vessels – including 1,154 unique vessels from third (or non-EU) countries that operate in EU waters.
These data were obtained after an access of information request to the European Commission. The data includes all official agreements, but not private agreements, as the EU Commission itself admits that the EU has no data on these agreements.
This website aims to demonstrate the need for institutional transparency and accountability of the activities of the EU fleet's activities in waters outside the EU. The legal framework that sets standards for the activities of this fleet will be revised in the coming years. On 10 December 2015 the European Commission published its proposal for a Regulation on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets (EC 2015/0636) that will replace the Fishing Authorisation Regulation (EC 1006/2008). This revision provides a critical opportunity to eliminate the loopholes that make it possible to evade EU standards and laws and to ensure that the activities of the EU fleet are transparent, accountable and sustainable no matter where they operate.
The rules governing both the licensing of the European Union’s large fishing fleet operating outside EU waters, and the licensing of non-EU countries’ vessels such as Norway, Iceland and Faroe Islands to fish in EU waters, the so-called FAR, are currently being rewritten.
The reform of the FAR must ensure that the activities of the EU fleet and nationals operating outside EU waters are transparent, accountable and sustainable. Otherwise, the EU risks allowing its fleet to be engaged in IUU fishing through legal loopholes. Such fishing deprives coastal communities of income, livelihood and food security, leads to unfair competition for legitimate fishers, and undermines efforts to safeguard global fish stocks.