Comoros, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines given red card by European Commission

The European Commission has issued seafood trade restrictions to Comoros and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines due to the commission’s judgment that the two island nations are not taking adequate steps to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The E.C. issued red cards to both nations, which prohibit fisheries imports from those countries into the European Union. In addition, the commission issued a warning to Liberia, urging the African country to do more to regulate its shipping registry, which has 100 listed vessels, making it the second-largest in the world.

"We are showing our commitment to fight illegal fishing globally. The EU's actions in the past years created an incentive for states to take their responsibilities seriously, and implement reforms to their fisheries sector,” European Union Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella said. “We do not like to impose sanctions on third countries, but sometimes clear action is needed. We invite the Comoros and Saint Vincent and Grenadines to seriously step up their fight against illegal fishing so that we can reverse this decision quickly. Following today's warning to Liberia we hope their authorities choose to act quickly and correct their wrongdoings."

The decision to issue a red card to the Comoros, an island nation located in Africa, between Mozambique and Madagascar, is based on the use of its flag as flag of convenience, according to an E.C. press release. 

“Most of the Comorian fleet has no connection to the country and operates in breach of national law, mainly in the waters of West Africa,” the E.C. said. “These vessels have been found to disregard the laws applicable in the national waters they operate in, trans-shipping fish from one vessel to another, a practice related to the laundering of illegal catches.”

Comoros was issued a yellow card warning by the commission in October 2015, but inadequate progress has been made in combatting IUU practices in the country “despite considerable effort by the European Commission to support this country in addressing the issue,” the E.C. said. 

The red card will have limited impact on Comoros, the commission acknowledged, given the nation does not export fish to the E.U. However, E.U.-flagged vessels will no longer be allowed to apply for or use licenses to fish in Comorian waters, it said.

The European Commission decided to issue a red card to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines due to the lack of control by the authorities of vessels flying the country’s flag, it said. 

“These vessels operate all over the Atlantic and offload their catches in Trinidad and Tobago (which has already been warned in order to improve control over activities in its ports),” the E.C. said. “Effectively, these vessels elude any control over their activities. This raises the concern that they are involved in illegal practices.”

Two vessels from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are already on the international vessel “black list” compiled by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations,” according to the E.C. However, similarly to the Comoros, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines do not export fish to the E.U. and therefore the real impact of the red card will be minimal.

Both Comoros and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were given action plans by the E.C. in October 2015 and December 2014, respectively. However, the countries have not taken adequate action to avoid red cards, the commission said.

“Ongoing dialogue and support will encourage these countries to step up their efforts to fully implement these action plans,” it said.

In issuing a “pre-identification” to Liberia, the European Commission hopes to raise political awareness and encourage the country to implement reforms in the governance of its fisheries. The commission said in its release. That it has proposed a “tailor-made action plan” for implementation in Liberia and estimated that, if appropriate action is taken, the problems identified in the country’s fisheries management could be resolved in six months.

However, previous efforts by Liberia have fallen short of what is required to tackle issues related to IUU fishing, the commission said. The listing of a Liberian vessel on the international “black list" in October 2016 contributed to the E.C.’s decision to pre-identify Liberia, it said.

“Liberia has taken reform measures including the revision of its fisheries laws, but no tangible progress has followed,” the commission concluded.


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