EJF signs MOU with Korea on IUU fishing

A leading environmental activist group has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Republic of Korea to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) signed the agreement on 17 June in Seoul, which accompanies new steps that country is taking to stop IUU fishing by Korean-flagged vessels in restricted waters. The EJF has been investigating IUU fishing off West Africa since 2010, where the group claims it has seen Korean vessels fishing illegally.

The violations have attracted the attention of the European Commission. Last fall, the commission issued trade bans  against Belize, Cambodia and Guinea for their roles in conducting or facilitating IUU fishing in those waters. At the time, the commission issued warnings about IUU fishing to a number of countries, including South Korea, and earlier this month the commission extended those warnings to the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

While the commission’s bans do not include Korea yet, one analyst noted that the commission is starting with smaller nations, with Korea being the ultimate goal.

According to the EJF, the Koreans appear to be listening, with new monitoring systems required on all Korean fishing vessels. The Korean government told the EJF that the new program has ensured that all Korean-flagged vessels now have monitoring systems installed to keep track of which ships are fishing in restricted waters.

“I believe the Republic of Korea has the potential to become both a regional and global leader in the international fight against illegal fishing,” said Steve Trent, EJF’s executive director. “Our future cooperation can, if successful, make a life-changing, positive difference for coastal communities in West Africa and contribute to the sustainability of the marine environment and biodiversity on a global basis.”

According to the EJF, fish stocks off the West African coast are overfished in part due to IUU fishing. The MOU allows Korea to share information from its monitoring system with groups such as EJF to help identify and punish fishermen who violate restricted fishing waters.


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