EU issues ban against IUU nations

The European Union has made good on its promise to sanction three countries for illegal fishing, announcing a seafood trade ban against them today, drawing praise from environmental groups.

The countries — Belize, Cambodia and Guinea — have not done enough to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The 24 March ban means that European Union member countries cannot accept seafood from those countries, nor can E.U. vessels fish in those nations' waters.

"These decisions are historic. They demonstrate that the EU is leading by example in the fight against illegal fishing," said Maria Damanaki, commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries. "I hope that this blacklisting will act as a catalyst for Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea to step up their efforts and work with the international community to eliminate illegal fishing."

In 2012, Damanaki issued a warning to the three countries and eight others, but in a 2013 statement, Damanaki said Belize, Cambodia and Guinea all showed little progress in addressing the issue.

Four environmental groups — Oceana, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), the Pew Charitable Trusts and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) all issued a joint statement praising the ban.

"Closing the world's most valuable seafood market to countries that do not cooperate in fighting illegal fishing is a crucial step, and we applaud the EU for taking this decision," said Steve Trent, EJF's executive director.

In the statement, the groups estimated IUU fishing costs between EUR 7 billion and EUR 17 billion annually.

"The EU's efforts to tackle IUU fishing worldwide have truly materialized today with this unprecedented step," said Maria José Cornax, fisheries campaign manager at Oceana. "We hope that fishing nations around the world are looking today at the EU's leadership, and are ready to follow this newly opened path towards the definitive elimination of IUU fishing."

The initial 2012 warning went out to Belize, Cambodia, Fiji, Guinea, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu. The commission engaged in dialogue with the countries concerned, and gave them time to remedy the situation. The commission later found that Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu had taken sufficient steps to address IUU fishing.

"There must be consequences for persistent inaction after repeated warnings," said Eszter Hidas, E.U. policy lead for WWF's transparent seas project. "We expect that Belize, Cambodia and Guinea will now take immediate action to impose effective fishing regulations."

Now, the groups and the commission will be turning their attention to three other countries — Curaçao, Ghana, and South Korea — which also got a warning in November 2013.

"The Council, by adopting this red list on non-compliant countries, has achieved a milestone in fighting illegal fishing," said Tony Long, director of the ending illegal fishing project at Pew Charitable Trusts. "This shows that the European Union is serious about confronting countries that do not stop illegal fishing or continue to trade in illegally caught fish."


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