The European Union innaugurated this week the headquarters of an agency which is tasked with the fight to restore the depleted stocks of fisheries around the continent. The Community Fisheries Control Agency opened its new residence in Vigo, Spain, in the presence of EU and Spanish officials and prominent industry personalities. The Community Fisheries Control Agency is a cornerstone of the EU's efforts to ensure sustainability in Europe's fisheries sector. Operational since the beginning of 2007, the Agency organizes coordination and cooperation between national control and inspection activities, to ensure that the rules of the EU's common fisheries policy are respected and applied effectively. The decision to establish the Agency was taken in 2002 as part of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Its priorities are to contribute to the recovery of depleted stocks, the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities and the reduction of discards. Its main working method is the operational coordination of pooled national means of control, inspection and surveillance, above all through joint deployment plans focusing in particular on fisheries. According to the European Commission, in this way the Agency not only strengthens the monitoring and control of CFP rules but also helps ensure that they are applied uniformly throughout the EU. The Agency also liaises with the stakeholder-led Regional Advisory Councils to secure input from the fisheries sector and other stakeholders into CFP control policy and to promote a culture of compliance. The primary role of the Community Fisheries Control Agency is to organize coordination and cooperation between national control and inspection activities so that the rules of CFP are respected and applied effectively. European Union governments agreed to establish the Agency in the 2002 CFP reform as part of the drive to instill a culture of compliance within the fisheries sector across Europe. In April 2005, they adopted the necessary legislation. The work of the Agency has clear added value. It will contribute to a level playing field for the fishing industry so that obligations are observed and everyone in the sector is treated equally, wherever they might be operating. Secondly, it will contribute towards sustainable fisheries by enhancing compliance with existing conservation and management measures to the benefit of present and future generations. As an independent executive body, the Agency works closely with the European Commission, member states, Regional Advisory Councils and, where appropriate, third parties such as regional fisheries organizations. Each has a particular role to play in making sure that the EU fisheries policy operates in the most sustainable manner possible. The Common Fisheries Policy requires that member states ensure effective control, inspection and enforcement of the rules and cooperate with each other and third countries in achieving this. This involves coordinating activities on land and in EU and international waters and where fishing takes place in third country waters, as appropriate. The creation of the Agency is designed to enhance this cooperation and to ensure that legislation is implemented in a systematic, uniform and effective way. Pooling separate efforts should overcome shortcomings which may arise because of the different resources and priorities national authorities allocate to their own controls and inspections. Uniform inspection procedures by national inspectors will also make it possible to document all cases of noncompliance in a transparent manner. Enforcing CFP rules remains the full responsibility of member states. Each is obliged to follow up on all cases of non-compliance discovered by its own inspectors and, where appropriate, EU inspectors, and to impose deterrent sanctions according to national rules and procedures. The activities undertaken by the agency so far include three major coordination tasks, which were launched in 2007 and have continued into this year - in the North Atlantic, Baltic and North Sea. The efforts involved coordination of inspection campaigns between member states and the pooling of resources to ensure more effective enforcement. In 2008, the Agency launched a Joint Deployment Plan to protect the vulnerable bluefin tuna stocks in the East Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. [email protected] Ari Syrquin is the head of GSCB Law Firm's International Department.