Seafood Industry Can Help Europe Fight Illegal Fishing

At panel, leaders highlight their role in EU carding system targeting illicit trade

The European Union has made preventing illegally caught seafood from entering its market a priority for its international diplomacy, and many players in the seafood industry have engaged in the global effort.

Industry representatives recently took part in a roundtable discussion during the Brussels International Seafood Expo about how their work can support EU enforcement efforts—and how they can provide guidance to nations outside Europe to boost compliance.

The EU uses a carding system to ensure that nations do a better job in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. In April, the European Commission issued a new set of formal warnings, or yellow cards, to countries in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Caribbean Sea.

Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago received yellow cards for what the EU called continued failure to comply with international obligations to fight illegal fishing and to improve their fisheries management and control. The system gives nations time to make needed changes before imposing harsher sanctions. At the same time, the Commission lifted the red card that Sri Lanka received in January 2015. That included an end to trade restrictions, following significant improvements in Sri Lanka’s fisheries governance.

The 2010 EU IUU Regulation established the carding system as a key tool in efforts to keep illegally caught seafood out of the European market. Today, that process provides important incentives to third, or non-EU, countries to improve their fisheries management and control systems to make fishing more sustainable around the world. To date, the EU has engaged with nearly 50 non-EU countries seeking to secure such improvements, with the majority implementing reforms successfully and avoiding issuance of a yellow card.

In 2015, during a discussion of the EU’s carding process and methodology held by The Pew Charitable Trusts and its partners, seafood industry representatives called for closer engagement with the Commission to ensure a more transparent and efficient process. That’s why Pew organised a roundtable, which took place April 28 at the seafood expo, to give industry—processors, retailers and fishing vessel owners—an opportunity to explore the role they can play in supporting third countries they deal with in their businesses to tackle IUU fishing effectively.

The roundtable event gathered key stakeholders in an effort to help everyone better understand the EU process, including its impact on non-EU countries. The meeting generated significant and constructive dialogue among different players in the seafood industry. Participants said the warning procedures generate positive actions in third countries by providing incentives for fisheries management reforms and improvements in monitoring, control and surveillance systems. In addition, industry interests have gained useful knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of the process. Most importantly, the lessons learned by all involved in the carding system can help third countries in their efforts to stop IUU fishing.

The seafood industry in the EU clearly plays a critical role and can exert considerable leverage when it comes to raising fisheries management standards in countries beyond the union’s borders. That includes working with their direct suppliers to ensure that only legal catch makes it to the EU marketplace.

Tony Long directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ work to end illegal fishing.

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