The Malta Independent 17 December 2018, Monday

Very few fishing vessels have tracking devices, regulator has high rate of resignations - NAO

Tuesday, 13 November 2018, 18:09 Last update: about 2 months ago

Only a very small portion of the local registered fishing fleet is equipped with remote tracking devices and physical inspections at sea are very limited, a National Audit Office audit has found.

This situation, the NAO says, leaves the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture with no visibility on most of the fishing activities carried out at sea, thereby allowing significant risks of irregular fishing going undetected.

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The audit, which was presented to the Speaker of the House, assessed whether the DFA’s inspectorate arm, through its operations and capacity, is identifying and managing risk as well as allocating the resources at its disposal in an effective and efficient manner.

 It found that the DFA’s visibility on the sector in question is limited and that its inspectorate effort allocation can be better managed.

The NAO also observed that the department’s efforts in conducting inspections on land “is largely asymmetrical, with a wide range of the Department’s inspectorate remit being somewhat neglected in favour of a small number of select areas.”

As an example of this latter point, the NAO saw how, while inspections on catch landings are given priority, verifications at retail stage (which is considered as a final level of control for it to detect, and act upon, any irregular fishing activity through traceability review) are severely lacking.

 Concerns also emerged on DFA’s HR situation.  “Specifically, the Department asserts that it is severely understaffed as call for applications issued by itself tend to not generate sufficient response and that it is experiencing a relatively high rate of resignations.”

The NAO said that, if the DFA were to streamline its operations, this staff shortage may be well reduced through increased efficiency.

“The department also expressed that its workforce could be better trained, though the NAO observed how training provided by the former only reached a very limited number of individuals.”

The NAO also said the DFA’s IT system, while robust, involves significant laboriousness, rendering it somewhat inefficient. The NAO also saw how the voluminous amount of inspection reports generated by DFA officials on the ground are paper-based, which adds to the cumbersomeness of its reporting system.

Finally, this Office observed that the DFA encompasses both operational and regulatory functions. The NAO is of the opinion that, as much as practicality allows, an entity which is primarily considered as a regulatory body should not be burdened with operational functions.

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