Brussels/Madrid, 25 January 2017
Over forty civil society organisations have endorsed a joint letter initiated by Access Info Europe and Oceana to urge Members of the European Parliament to vote in favour of a proposed Regulation that will help fight illegal fishing by increasing transparency about the owners of EU flagged vessels. The Regulation on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets will set up an EU-managed public register of authorisations for vessels fishing outside EU waters, and has already been approved by the Parliament’s Fishing (PECH) and Development (DEVE) committees.
A key feature of this future register is that it will include details on the “beneficial” – the ultimate or real – owners of fishing vessels, making it easier for both law enforcement and watchdog civil society and journalists to track who is really behind illegal fishing. The forty plus civil society groups, including leading global organisations working on transparency and accountability, note in the letter to MEPs that transparency is essential: fishing by EU-flagged vessels in the waters of developing coastal States in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and off the coast of West and Central Africa, aided by EU funds of EUR 145 million annually, has a significant impact on the conservation and management of global fish stocks.
23 January 2017
Dear Member of the European Parliament,
We, the undersigned European and global organisations, are writing to you to request your support in advancing legal and sustainable fishing of the European fishing fleet, as well as contributing to financial transparency, and the fight against corruption and illegal fishing, by supporting full transparency in relation to EU vessels granted authorisations to fish outside EU waters.
Specifically, we urge you on Thursday 2 February 2017 to support the provisions in the PECH report on the Regulation on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets, which will establish an EU-managed public database of fishing vessels registered in the EU that receive such authorisations and their owners (amendment 69).
Such transparency of European fishing fleet activities is essential because the EU fleet operates in the waters of developing coastal States in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and off the coast of West and Central Africa, aided by EU funds of EUR 145 million annually. The scale of the EU’s fishing activities abroad is such that its operations can have a significant impact on the long-term conservation and management of global fish stocks.
On 5 December 2016, the PECH Committee supported the creation of the first public register of authorisations for vessels fishing outside EU waters. This proposed public database will include several key pieces of information such as vessel name, flag, type of authorisation and period, unique vessel identifiers (IMO numbers), as well as the beneficial ownership details.
The vote in favour is in line with current positions of the European Parliament on the revision of the 4th anti-money laundering directive. In autumn 2016 the ECON/LIBE draft report and DEVE opinion both supported full public disclosure of beneficial ownership information. It is also in line with the Parliament position on the previous revision in 2014 that required every Member State to establish ownership registers that were fully in the public domain. Creating this sectoral obligation does not, of course, replace the need for a cross-sectoral register of beneficial ownership for companies and trusts.
Moreover, it is also coherent with the growing momentum on EU and international beneficial ownership transparency:
- The UK, Slovenia, Denmark, France, Bulgaria and the Netherlands have set up or are currently setting up public databases.
- 2013: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)1 recognized that a lack of transparency and access to beneficial ownership information is a major indicator that tax crime and related offences may be present.
- 2013: G8 Members committed to compiling comprehensive data on beneficial ownership of their companies2;
- 2014: G20 Members3 adopted a 10 point policy on how they will increase transparency of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts, including the commitment to establishing central registries. This is a G20 high priority.
- 2016: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recommended that financial investigations should be developed to uncover broader criminal networks and reveal beneficial ownership structures in the fisheries sector (25th Session of the CCPCJ)4.
- 2016: At the 4th Open Government Partnership Global Summit5, partners committed to ending abuse of anonymous companies by reducing the opacity around corporate ownership.
As an economic leader Europe has an obligation to ensure its fishing fleets comply with global transparency standards. We therefore call on you to support the PECH proposal and thereby promote sustainability and global financial transparency and tax governance.
Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director, Oceana in Europe
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe
Claire Nouvian, Founder and Chair, BLOOM
Alexandra Dunn, Executive Director and Co-Founder, The Engine Room
Steve Trent, Executive Director, Environmental Justice Foundation
Porter McConnell, Director, Financial Transparency Coalition
Christine Clough, Program Manager, Global Financial Integrity Shauna Leven, Campaign Director – Corruption, Global Witness
Saskia Richartz, Deputy Director, Greenpeace European Unit
Edwin Huizing, Director, Hivos
Samuel Stone, Head of Fisheries & Aquaculture, Marine Conservation Society
Chris Taggart, Co-Founder & CEO, OpenCorporates
Zosia Sztykowski, Project Lead, OpenOwnership
Arjan El Fassed, Director, Open State Foundation
Alex Howard, Deputy Director, Sunlight Foundation
Carl Dolan, Director, Transparency International EU
Gillian Dell, Transparency International Berlin, for the UNCAC Coalition
Carole Excell, Acting Director, Environmental Democracy Practice, World Resources Institute
Corina Dragomirescu, Advocacy Academy Association, Romania
Guido Romero, Executive Director, Diritto di Sapere, Italy
Mathias Huter, Secretary General, Forum Informationsfreiheit, Austria.
Christien Absil, Chair, Good Fish Foundation, Netherlands
Jelena Berkovic, Executive Director, GONG, Croatia
Bronwyn Cahill, Research Scientist, Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research
Arne Semsrott, Project Lead, Open Knowledge Foundation Germany
Aniol Esteban, Programme Director, New Economics Foundation, UK
Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator & Head of Secretariat, Africa Freedom of Information Centre, Uganda
David Ugolor, Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, Nigeria
Jean-Pierre Alumba Lukamba, Deputy Chairperson, African Diaspora Forum, South Africa
Amane Guerfi, Founder, Agence Open Gov Algeria Lab. Algeria
Dr Chima Amadi, Executive Director, Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Nigeria
Henri Christin Longendja, Secrétaire Exécutif, Collectif 24, Democratic Republic of Congo
Douglas White, President, Foundation State and Society / Network of Open Government, Dominican Republic
Grazielle David, Policy Advisor, INESC, Portugal
Ibrahim Al-Sragey, Director, Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association, Baghdad, Iraq
Hilda Ajeilat, President, Jordan Transparency Center, Jordan
Marileide Sousa Silva Luna, Movimento Popular de Saúde, Portugal
Jean-Francois Mombia Atuku, PCA du RIAO, RDC
Tijah Bolton-Akpan, Head of Programmes, Policy Alert, Nigeria
Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Nigeria
Bazira Henry Mugisha, Executive Director, Water Governance Institute, Uganda Marina Amara, Transparency International Russia
Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, Secretary to the Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Climate Change
President Aigbokhan, Esq, FOI lawyer, Nigeria
Alagie Barrow, Regional Supervisor/Manager at Supersonicz the Micro-finance, and also the
CEO & Co-founder of the Youth Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa
Shaazka Beyerle, Author of Curtailing Corruption: People Power for Accountability and Justice
Petru Botnaru, Freelance Journalist, Republic of Moldova/Romania
Ken Coghill, Department of Management, Monash Business School, Australia
Pınar Dağ, Data Journalism Instructor, Turkey
Erwin de Grave, International Relations Director, Dyntra
Francesca Fanucci, Lawyer – Consultant on Freedom of Expression, Italy Eoin Sweeney, Director, ITO Consult Ltd.