CATCH – A Big Leap from Paper to Electronic Catch Certification of Imported Seafood entering European Union

Image Source: European Commssion

The EU Catch Certification Scheme was launched more than a decade ago to stem the flow of illegal seafood from other countries. All seafood consignments entering EU-single market from third countries (through sea, land border & air cargo) are required to be accompanied by a Catch Certificate to verify that catches are sourced from legal fisheries trade. The EU-IUU Regulation’s catch certification (CC) scheme is one of the most progressive trade control system in the world. The European Council regulation 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008 and its associated regulations established a EU Community-wide monitoring system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing catches from entering the EU common market. The new digital catch certification “CATCH” would assist in addressing several shortfalls that plagued implementation controls under the old paper-based catch certification system.

The decade long EU catch certification regulation (EU 1005/2008) has led to massive changes in global trading systems using two mantras “traceability” and “documentation controls” to tackle entry of illegal (IUU) seafood into the biggest global consumption market, i.e., “European Union”. Other major consumption markets by volume (tonnes imported) ranking in 2018 were USA, China, Japan and South Korea. The EU is also perhaps the only entity to implement the biggest and comprehensive IUU trade control(s) of seafood products as they move through multiple countries. It’s organisations like EU-DG Mare conduct regular audits of source country fisheries and processing facilities in third countries through transit supply chains to ensure integrity of the seafood before it enter’s EU port of entry”.

Under the paper-based catch certification scheme, copies of the same catch certificate could have been used to import multiple consignments through multiple entry points into EU member states. Due to absence of a centralised database, under the old paper-based system authorities in one EU member state were unable to conduct cross-checks of CC and related documents submitted to other member states. Procedures and extent of verifications also differed between each EU member state under the paper-based inspection scheme.

“CATCH” – EU’s new electronic Catch Documentation scheme

European Union took the much awaited step today (7 May 2019) which could eventually lead to swap from paper to digital catch certification of imported seafood entering EU member states in the immediate future. The new digital catch monitoring system of imported seafood could lead to reforms and streamlining in checks of IUU seafood products entering the EU market. Once the electronic catch certification system is approved by European Parliament and Council the system will be mandatory from 2021 year onwards. EU Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella unveiled the digital IT electronic catch documentation tool “CATCH” at the Brussels Seafood Expo on 7 May, 2019.

A parallel European Commission press release stated that (Source: European Commission 2019).

“CATCH will digitalise the current paper-based certification scheme; support EU Member States in their illegal, unreported and unregulated fishery-related verification tasks; help reduce the risk of fraud, facilitate trade flows, and; reduce the burden on operators and administrations.”.

Commissioner Vella’s speech at the Seafood Expo sheds some more light on the new “CATCH” digital catch certification database. Following are the excerpts taken from his speech in Brussels (Karmenu Vella 2019). “CATCH will provide a single database with real-time monitoring of import controls. The first version launched on 7 May, 2019 will include the catch certificate, the processing statement, and the importer declaration.”

CATCH will go a long way to addressing many of the shortcomings we are facing today. For example, 

  1. It will help EU Member States detect suspected fraud and abuse. For example, if partial quantities declared are higher than the overall catch certificate allows.;
  2. It will simplify and speed up the controls at the EU border by reducing the administrative burden of import authorities;
  3. it will help create a level playing-field between Member States, by ensuring that what is rejected in one entry point cannot enter the EU in another. (a very important step in comparison to the old paper-based catch certification).” (Karmenu Vella 2019).

“CATCH can be used by all operators along the value chain. This is a living project, in which are all involved: the Commission, national authorities, and above all the fishing industry.”

Real time monitoring of catch certificates in the CATCH database would enable Customs, Fisheries and Port authorities across multiple EU member states to crack down on forgery while enabling faster approval for importers and port agents. The version 1.0 has risk analysis and quantity management (Desiree and Kirgil, DG Mare Europe Day 2019 presentation) algorithms to pre-emptively detect misreporting of declared quantities on the catch certificates.

Beginning this month, the new CATCH database can be used voluntarily by authorities in EU member states and third countries. Starting in 2021, after entry into force on an EU-wide basis, it will be mandatory for all EU member states to use the new electronic centralised realtime CATCH database, while third countries can use it voluntarily. if third countries switch to the new electronic IT database it would identify errors in CC in advance before products enter EU common market, leading to less rejections at first port of entry in EU.

References:

  1. Karmenu Vella (2019) 7 May 2019 speech by EU Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella at the launch of EU’s electronic Catch Documentation scheme (CATCH) at Seafood Expo, Brussels.
  2. European Commission (2019) European Commission launches new tool to strengthen EU’s fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, European Commission press release, 7 May 2019. (https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/press/european-commission-launches-new-tool-strengthen-eu’s-fight-against-illegal-unreported-and_en)

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