VILNIUS - The Lithuania government announced that it was undertaking efforts to remove the shortcomings in the inspection and control of the country's fishing vessels, both of which were pointed out as weak areas in the European Commission's comprehensive monitoring report issued last November.
Vytautas Vaitiekunas, director of the fishery department under the Agriculture Ministry, told the Baltic News Service that department officials expected to have two new fishery-control systems in place by next May.
One of the systems will enable the EU to monitor the location of Lithuanian-registered ships, and the other will allow it to control amounts and types of fish caught by these ships.
"We have started a procurement process to purchase the system for tracking the location of Lithuanian-flagged ships. We are going to acquire the other [system] soon as well," Vaitiekunas said.
The existing system only allows Lithuania to monitor ships fishing in waters close to the country, while ship control stations operated by foreign countries monitor vessels fishing in more distant waters.
"But we need an international system so that the EU could see our ships as well," the official said.
Vaitiekunas said the amount and types of fish caught must also be controlled to ensure a rational and sustainable use of fish resources. "Such data would be systematized and sent to Brussels for processing on a broader basis and would be used to establish fish quotas," he said.
The department official added that data on all catches would be collected by a special inspector who would be given powers to inspect any ship.
Both control systems will cost an estimated 696,000 euros. The project is cofinanced by the European Union and the Lithuanian government.
There are 199 seagoing ships on the Lithuanian ship register at present, down from 308 ships in 1994. Total tonnage of the Lithuanian-flagged ships declined to 444,000 tons in 2003 from 647,000 tons in 1994.
Lithuanian fishers can catch up to 18,301 tons of sprat in 2004. The allowable catch for cod, Baltic herring and salmon amounts to 2,740 tons, 2,570 tons and 6,992 units, respectively. Catching other fish species in the Baltic Sea is not limited by quotas.