The Regulation (EC) 2017/1004 aims to establish rules on the collection, management and use of biological, environmental, technical and socioeconomic data concerning the fisheries sector (Data Collection Framework, DCF). The DCF should contribute towards reaching the objectives of the common fisheries policy, which include the protection of the marine environment, the sustainable management of all commercially exploited species and, in particular, the achievement of good environmental status in the marine environment by 2020, as set out in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Directive 2008/56/EC).
According to Article 8 of the DCF Regulation, Member States shall cooperate and coordinate their actions to further improve the quality, timeliness and coverage of data enabling the reliability of data collection methods to be further improved, with a view to improving their data collection activities. Further according to article 9 (1) of the same regulation, Member States shall coordinate their data collection activities with other Member States in the same marine region and shall make every effort to coordinate their actions with third countries having sovereignty or jurisdiction over waters in the same marine region.
In order to facilitate regional coordination, Regional Coordination Groups (RCGs) shall be established by the relevant Member States for each marine region (Article 9(2) of the Regulation (EC) No 2017/1004). An RCG consists of experts appointed by Member States, including national correspondents, end users and the Commission and a meeting is held annually at a minimum while intersessional work continues throughout the year.
The main hub for regional coordination
In view of the objective of the common fisheries policy to give more responsibility to Member States and to better involve end-users of scientific data in data collection, regional coordination should be strengthened and expanded from one single meeting into a continuous process coordinated by Regional Coordination Groups for each marine region. In this framework, Member States should aim to cooperate with relevant stakeholders including third countries (Reg EC 2017/1004).
The Regional Coordination Groups are therefore the main hub for regional coordination and cooperation within the different regions contributing to the fisheries Data Collection Framework. They also make efforts to coordinate their actions with third countries having sovereignty or jurisdiction over waters in the same marine region.
In accordance to the Regulation (EC) 2017/1004, RCGs should aim at developing and implementing procedures, methods, quality assurance and quality control for collecting and processing data with a view to enabling further improvement of the reliability of scientific advice.
RCGs consist of experts appointed by Member States, including MS’ national correspondents for data collection, and the Commission.
According to the Rules of Procedure adopted by RCGs to carry out their duties as set out in the regulation, the RCG may agree to establish permanent or temporary bodies, task groups, subgroups or other arrangements.
The RCG will appoint the lead(s) and any other role(s) or adopt working practices as necessary and provide terms of reference (ToR) establishing the necessary contributions and information to be produced by the RCG. The RCG may give this mandate to the subgroup(s). These subgroups will carry out their duties during and between the RCG meetings. The subgroup lead or a person nominated by the lead shall keep the RCG informed of the progress of such work and any issues arising at intervals agreed at the RCG.
Some RCGs hold joint meetings and/or sub-groups with common ToR which may cover several years. RCGs have established intersessional sub-groups (ISSGs), which work year around in common topics, such as data quality, dialogue between data providers and end-users, diadromous fish, regional overviews of fisheries, etc, but also on region specific priorities as agreed at RCG level.
How many RCGs do we have?
Currently, six Regional Coordination Groups are operating in the data collection framework: