EU carding system boosts Guinea’s war on IUU fishing

Artisinal fishing canoes line the shoreline of the West-African country of Guinea.

The West African country of Guinea has been listed among four case studies showcasing positive changes in fisheries governance that resulted from the support of the European Union in the prevention, deterrence, and elimination of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, according to a new report by the European Union IUU Fishing Coalition.

The report, "Driving improvements in fisheries governance globally: Impact of the EU IUU carding scheme on Belize, Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Thailand," found the recent promulgation of new fisheries legislation by the government of Guinea has reduced incidents of IUU fishing after the law paved the way for “a significant increase in its rate of sanctioning and the value of fines being issued.”

“The associated changes in legislation have been the catalyst for what appear to be much broader efforts by Guinea to address its problems in the fight against IUU fishing,” the report adds.

The report, compiled after thorough desk-based research and interviews with participants in Guinea's fishing sector, also highlights positive changes in fisheries governance in three other countries – Belize, the Solomon Islands, and Thailand – after they embraced the E.U.’s yellow- and red-carding scheme.

The performance of the four countries in fighting IUU fishing was analyzed on three key indicators, including legislation and regulation, compliance, and enforcement and prevalence.

The E.U. issues a yellow card to non-E.U. countries pre-identified as non-cooperating in the fight against IUU fishing. The warning gives the country the opportunity to engage with the E.U. for assistance in tackling the shortcomings that contribute to the illegal fishing. A red card is then issued if the country fails to comply with IUU fishing regulations after receiving a yellow card. Both the yellow and red cards can be removed if the E.U. deems sufficient effort has been made by the carded country to address shortcomings that encourage IUU fishing.

“Since carding, Guinea has taken a number of steps to improve its monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) capabilities,” the report adds.

Despite a lack of data on the number of vessels flagged to Guinea before the 2012 yellow-carding, and the subsequent red-carding in 2013, the report found “indicators point to improvements in numerous outcomes, such as changes in national fisheries legislation, participation in international agreements and initiatives, and improved national MCS measures.”

“While there is still room for improvement, particularly regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) compliance, further positive changes can be expected as infrastructure improves and Guinea becomes better-equipped to address IUU fishing activities in its waters,” the report said.

A separate report by the World Bank confirms that since Guinea restructured its fisheries legislation, the country realized positive changes in the “management of fishing capacity,” including limiting the number of fishing vessels through improved law enforcement.

The report found Guinea has realized “increased law enforcement and fight against illegal fishing.” The country now has an operational vessel-monitoring system, and more than 90 percent of vessels were inspected in 2020 compared to just 51 percent in 2016. In addition, the country has increased surveillance patrols by 300 percent – 696 days of patrols in 2019 compared to 232 in 2016 – and has registered more than 80 percent of its artisanal fishing canoe fleet.

Current statistics indicate Guinea’s fisheries sector contributed 3.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019, despite being underexploited – only 165,000 metric tons (MT) of fish were caught in 2019, against a potential of 300,000 MT.

Guinea loses an estimated USD 20 million (EUR 18 million) annually to illegal fishing, a practice that remains the biggest threat to the sector in the country. But the E.U. IUU said the issue can be partially addressed through adequate resourcing and funding of relevant teams within the E.U. “so as to ensure the continued effectiveness of the carding scheme.” The coalition also recommended the E.U. explore expanding the scheme to other countries to further reduce the likelihood of IUU fishing being diverted to other markets.

Moreover, the report calls for expansion of the technical support and development assistance to third-countries involved in the carding process by the E.U.

The carding scheme, the coalition said, should be seen to be above reproach, and can achieve that reputation by providing continuous updates on dialogues to advisory councils that include NGOs and industry. The report said the scheme came under intense criticism when it was first introduced for “being insufficiently transparent."

Furthermore, the report calls on the E.U. to use all available forums, including those outside the carding process, to encourage non-E.U. countries to adopt policies that support transparency to ease the identification and resolution of issues related to IUU fishing.  

Photo courtesy of Vincent Tremeau/World Bank


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