Brussels—Today the Environmental Justice Foundation, Oceana, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and WWF welcome a decision by the European Union Fisheries Council, comprising all 28 fisheries ministers, to ban the importation of fish from Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea for their failure to cooperate in fighting illegal, unreported, and unregulated, or IUU, fishing. They are being sanctioned for failing to properly monitor their fishing fleets, punish vessels guilty of illegal fishing, and develop robust national fisheries laws. In addition to the importation ban, the decision to formally blacklist or “red card” the three countries means EU member states must also ensure that EU fishing vessels do not operate in those nations' waters.
The four NGOs also called for greater transparency in the process that leads to sanctions, and they urged the EU to close a loophole that allows non-EU vessels to continue to fish in non-cooperating countries' waters and export fish to the EU. The Fisheries Council imposed the sanctions under powers from the 2010 EU IUU Regulation. In November 2012, the European Commission originally proposed a formal warning for eight countries, including the three sanctioned today. In 2013, the European Commission announced that Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Vanuatu had sufficiently improved but that Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea had not. Today's Council vote confirmed the Commission's recommendation.
A second round of formal warnings or “yellow cards” were issued by the European Commission in November 2013, with Curaçao, Ghana, and South Korea told that they could also face the trade measures if they do not cooperate in fighting IUU fishing. South Korean vessels have been widely documented fishing illegally in West Africa, causing significant impact on coastal fishing communities and the marine environment.
IUU fishing depletes fish stocks, damages marine ecosystems, puts legitimate fishers at an unfair disadvantage, and jeopardises the livelihoods of some of the world's most vulnerable communities. IUU fishing is estimated to cost between 7 billion and 17 billion euro annually, representing 11 million to 26 million tonnes of catch.1
Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation, said:
“Closing the world's most valuable seafood market to countries that do not cooperate in fighting illegal fishing is a crucial step, and we applaud the EU for taking this decision. Whilst it is not perfect, the EU IUU Regulation is clearly the world's leading piece of legislation in this field—there are already signs that coastal communities in West Africa are seeing the benefits of the EU's action towards offending vessels and flag states.”
Maria José Cornax, fisheries campaign manager at Oceana, said:
“The EU's efforts to tackle IUU fishing worldwide have truly materialised today with this unprecedented step. We hope that fishing nations around the world are looking today at the EU's leadership and are ready to follow this newly opened path towards the definitive elimination of IUU fishing.”
Tony Long, director, ending illegal fishing project at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said:
“By adopting these red cards on noncompliant countries, the Council has achieved a milestone in fighting illegal fishing, showing that the European Union is serious about confronting countries that do not stop illegal fishing or continue to trade in illegally caught fish.”
Eszter Hidas, EU policy lead for WWF's Transparent Seas Project, said:
“While the imposition of trade bans on third countries is by no means the outcome WWF would like to see result from the implementation of the EU IUU Regulation, we absolutely support this necessary action towards countries that do not take the fight against IUU seriously, and we congratulate the EU on their commitment to this process.”
1 David J. Agnew et al., “Estimating the Worldwide Extent of Illegal Fishing,” PLOS ONE 4 (2): e4570, http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0004570.