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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Illegal fishing activities: trade measures decided by the EU Council

The Council today triggered a series of measures affecting the trade in fisheries products and other fisheries- related activities with Belize, Cambodia and Guinea in order to put a stop to commercial benefits stemming from illegal fishing activities.

Ultimately, fisheries products caught by vessels from these countries will be banned from being imported into the EU (6262/14). The adoption of the implementing decision establishing a list of non-cooperating third countries in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing pursuant to regulation 1005/20081 is the first decision of this kind and follows a formal warning made in November 2012. This decision marks an intensification of the EU's fight against illegal fishing by identifying Belize, Cambodia and Guinea as non-cooperating third countries. 

Despite the EU working closely with the national authorities to set up fisheries management and effective control measures, the three countries have still not addressed structural problems and have failed to show real commitment to tackling the problem of illegal fishing. Fisheries products caught by vessels flying the three countries' flags will be banned from being imported into the EU. EU vessels will have to stop fishing in these waters. Other forms of cooperation, such as joint fishing operations or fisheries agreements with these countries, will no longer be possible.

Yesterday, EU member states fishing ministers backed the European Commission in their efforts against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Agreement was absolute to support the fight against perceived widespread abuses.

The decision is consistent with the EU's international commitment to ensuring the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources at home and abroad through compliance with IUU rules adopted by the United Nations and the FAO. All of the identified countries have failed to fulfil their duties as flag, coastal, port or market states - for example, by not complying with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) or the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement. 

The EU's approach towards combating illegal fishing reflects the fact that IUU fishing is a global criminal activity which is harmful not only to EU fishermen and markets but also to local communities in developing countries. Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu also received formal warnings in 2012. The remedial actions introduced by those countries are being monitored continuously through bilateral dialogue, and a progress report is due shortly. In addition, formal warnings were given to Korea, Ghana and Curacao in November 2013. The EU is also continuing the dialogue with the three countries listed as non-cooperating, as some of them have initiated attempts to address IUU fishing. 

Regulation 1005/2008 establishes a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing. This key instrument in the fight against illegal fishing aims to allow access to the EU market only to fisheries products that have been certified as legal by the flag state or the exporting state concerned.

Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea have all been blacklisted. Fish caught by their fleet or from their waters will no longer come into Europe.

Other countries are under investigation by the European Commission. South Korea, Ghana, Curaco have all be warned to address their fisheries. And Panama, Fiji, Togo, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu have been given until the spring of 2014 to implement the measures they have told the EU Commission they would introduce.

It seems a few countries thought the EU was bluffing. They have just learned the EU is very serious about taking and beating Pirate fishing.

Around $10 billion a year of fish caught is from IUU fisheries. Europe has learned from its on battles taking on illegal fishing in its own waters. Taking on the Blue Fin Tuna illegal fishing in the Med took years and tens of millions of euros of taxpayers money to bring an out of control fisheries back into line.

Sometimes people may forget that the EU is established on the idea of the “rule of law”. This means that no country, person or industry is above the law. 3 countries yesterday were reminded of that very simple idea.

Story courtesy of Aaron McLoughlin