Commission sends formal warning to Denmark for failing to properly control fisheries

Seagulls Feed on By-catch From TrawlerZeemeeuwen voeden zich met Bijvangst van Trawler

Photo: Greenpeace

Brussels, January 24, 2019:- Environmental organisations ClientEarth and Our Fish have welcomed a decision by the European Commission to follow up on infringement proceedings against Denmark for failing to properly control fishing practices, and illegal misreporting of catches.

Denmark has been found in breach of its legal obligation to ensure that fishers record bycatches in their electronic logbook, leaving huge quantities of fish undeclared. This compromises scientific evaluations of fish stocks and threatens their sustainability.

This behaviour is in clear violation of the rules contained in the EU fisheries Control Regulation.

As a result, the European Commission has formally notified Danish authorities, giving them two months to comply with EU law.

ClientEarth Fisheries lawyer Elisabeth Druel said: “Denmark is blatantly breaching its obligation to control fishers operating in its waters. We welcome the Commission’s decision to open infringement proceedings for Denmark’s failure to monitor fishing activities by its vessels.

“In addition, we’re concerned that Danish authorities also granted illegal fishers access to European public money.”

Legally, only fishers and fishing operators who have not contravened the law in the past 12 months can obtain subsidies from member state authorities. In reality, a recent report from the Danish Court of Auditors has shown that Danish authorities have granted subsidies to fishers who were found to be in severe breach of the law.

For example, on one occasion, a fisher was granted money despite having twice misreported his catches by more than 1000%, while another had breached the law five times without receiving any penalty points, in contravention of EU law.

Rebecca Hubbard, Program Director for Our Fish said: “This infringement proceeding against Denmark comes against a background of shocking evidence of a culture of illegal misreporting by members of the fishing industry, in a fishery previously considered low-risk by control experts.

“It is now clearly urgent that Danish and EU governments reverse the burden of proof, in order to increase transparency and turn around the culture of non-compliance that pervades the fishing industry. It is time that remote electronic monitoring systems were introduced into EU fleets, and that we stop taking our public fish resources and precious ocean for granted.”

Druel added: “Unfortunately Denmark is not an isolated case. Investigations carried out by ClientEarth have highlighted other shocking breaches of EU fisheries law in countries like France and Italy.

On a regular basis, European countries fail to appropriately control fisheries and sanction infringements to the law, compromising the good management of our seas. We hope this issue will be addressed in the coming revision of the EU fisheries control regulation and through strong action from the European Commission.”

The European Parliament will vote on the revision of the EU Fisheries Control System on 16 April. These laws aim to ensure that the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy are followed in practice by monitoring fisheries and fighting illegal fishing, allowing reliable data collection for managing fishing opportunities, and tracing and checking of fisheries product throughout the supply chain. The vote will be followed later in 2019 by negotiations with the Council in order to reach an agreement on the final text.


Fisheries control: Commission follows up on infringement procedure against DENMARK concerning its compliance with some provisions of the EU control rules

“The Commission decided today to send an additional letter of formal notice to Denmark over its failure to enforce several important provisions of the EU Control Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No N° 1224/2009). The Regulation establishes a system for the control, inspection and enforcement by national authorities of the EU rules of the Common Fisheries Policy. The Regulation has been in force since 1 January 2010. To date, the Commission considers that Denmark fails to ensure that all fishery products are weighed at landing and that mandatory catch registration documents record the quantities of each species present, including industrial by-catches. The most serious issues concern fisheries for industrial purposes. These deficiencies significantly undermine the accuracy of catch registration documents which are necessary for quota deduction purposes and to prevent overfishing. In addition, Denmark does not ensure that the Commission is notified of the quantities of stocks actually landed with a consequent risk to the sustainability objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy. Denmark has now two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.”

Source: European Commision  – January infringements package: key decisions – Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, January 24, 2019


Background: Serious infringement by Danish vessel in Irish waters (August 2015)

A Danish vessel recently caught fishing illegally in the Celtic Sea has avoided penalties, in spite of a request by the Irish authorities that action be taken, IFPO chief executive Francis O’Donnell said.
The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has confirmed it notified the Danish control authorities and requested penalty points be assigned to the vessel.
“The Danish authorities are refusing to apply the penalty points, knowing that the vessel had no quota for a particular species it had fished when detected,” Mr O’Donnell said.

More details


Our Fish Contacts:

Dave Walsh, Our Fish Communications Advisor, +34 691826764

Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Program Director, +34 657669425


ClientEarth contacts:

Diane Vandesmet, ClientEarth communications officer,, 0032 (0) 2 808 3465

Elisabeth Druel, ClientEarth Fisheries lawyer,, 0032 (0) 2808 4328



About Our Fish

Our Fish works to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.

Our Fish works with organisations and individuals across Europe to deliver a powerful and unwavering message: overfishing must be stopped, and solutions put in place that ensure Europe’s waters are fished sustainably. Our Fish demands that the Common Fisheries Policy be properly enforced, and Europe’s fisheries effectively governed.

Our Fish calls on all EU Member States to set annual fishing limits at sustainable limits based on scientific advice, and to ensure that their fishing fleets prove that they are fishing sustainably, through monitoring and full documentation of their catch.


Follow Our Fish on Twitter: @our_fish


About ClientEarth:

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers, finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, supporting stronger forest governance, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin, New York City and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.

Website :

And twitter : @ClientEarth