Analysis

European Commission Praised for Warning Countries on Illegal Fishing

Philippines and Papua New Guinea given ‘yellow card’ for doing too little to combat the practice

The Pew Charitable Trusts praised the European Commission today for officially warning the Philippines and Papua New Guinea for their failure to sufficiently fight against illegal fishing.

The Commission's warning, known as a "yellow card," means that if the two countries continue to perform poorly in the effort to end illegal, unreported, and unregulated, or IUU, fishing they will be banned from importing seafood into the European Union and face other sanctions.

Illegal and unreported fishing accounts for 1-in-5 wild-caught marine fish, a haul worth up to EUR 17 billion (US$23.5 billion) per year. EU standards for good performance in the fight against IUU fishing require that countries effectively monitor their fishing fleets, punish the owners of vessels found guilty of illegal fishing, and maintain or develop robust national fisheries laws.

Pew applauded the Commission decision, which brings to ten the number of countries on the yellow list. Curacao, Ghana, and South Korea made the list in 2013 and could be red-listed if they do not improve their practices.

EU Member States are required to ban the import of fish from red-listed countries and ensure that EU fishing vessels do not operate in those countries' coastal waters, among other punitive measures. Three nations are on the list: Cambodia, Belize, and Guinea.

We are pleased to see the EU continue its efforts to stop illegal fishing and keep illegally caught fish from reaching the market. The yellow card system gives a clear warning to states that are failing to tackle IUU fishing, that they must take positive action or lose access to one of the world's biggest seafood markets, Tony Long, director, end illegal fishing project.

The Commission acted under the EU Regulation to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate IUU Fishing, or the EU IUU Regulation, which came into force in 2010.

The warnings have brought progress, and the Commission rewards corrective action: Five of the eight countries yellow-carded in 2012 when the Commission started issuing warnings—Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Vanuatu—were not included on the red list after improving their performance in combatting IUU fishing. Illegal fishing depletes fish stocks, damages marine ecosystems, puts legitimate fishers at an unfair disadvantage, and jeopardizes the livelihoods of some of the world's most vulnerable communities. Illegal and unreported fishing account for 11 million to 26 million tons of catch, which equates to up to 816 kilograms (1,800 pounds) of fish stolen from the seas every second.

Pew's project is calling for greater transparency and stronger implementation of the regulation to help ensure that fisheries management is sustainable and based on sound science. In addition to commending the Commission on the yellow cards, Pew is calling for the EU to put in place an electronic catch certificate database, a system to ensure effective and harmonized port controls, and better monitoring and enforcement of EU nationals engaged in IUU activities, including those outside EU waters.

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