EU to issue bans, warnings on IUU fishing

The European Commission is proceeding with seafood trade bans for the European Union against Belize, Cambodia and Guinea, and issuing new warnings against South Korea, Ghana and Curaçao, charging that those countries are not doing enough to control illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Maria Damanaki, commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, said the commission is asking the European Council to place the countries on a final list of non-cooperating nations. The council is expected to agree, meaning it will ban imports of any fisheries products from those countries to the European Union, and ban European vessels from fishing in their waters.

"The Commission's action today is a stern reminder to all concerned," Damanaki said. "In view of the critical state of many fish stocks, we have no other choice but enforcing international rules on sustainability."

Initially, Damanaki issued a warning to eight nations in November 2012. Since then, she said, five of the nations — Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Vanuatu — "have made tangible progress" in addressing the issue.

"They have set in motion new legislation and improved their monitoring, control and inspection systems and, as a result, dialogue with these countries has been extended until the end of February 2014 with progress to be evaluated next spring," Damanaki said.

By contrast, she said, Belize, Cambodia and Guinea "have not made satisfactory progress," forcing the request for the trade ban.

Meanwhile, the commission also turned its focus on IUU fishing off the coast of West Africa by issuing "yellow cards" warnings to South Korea, Ghana and Curaçao, urging those nations to do more to curb these fishing practices. The commission has not asked for trade bans at this time, but the warnings are similar to those Damanaki issued last year to Belize, Cambodia and Guinea.

"The Commission has identified concrete shortcomings, such as a lack of actions to address deficiencies in monitoring, controlling and surveillance of fisheries, and suggests corrective actions to resolve them," Damanaki said. "We hear news every week about pirate vessels for instance in the Gulf of Guinea. We know how harmful this organized crime can be for coastal communities in developing countries."

The moves drew praise from international environmental activist group Greenpeace, which noted the commission's announcements follow closely the decision in August to impose a trade ban against the Faroe Islands for overfishing of herring and mackerel stocks.

"This is a very welcome development in the shift toward sustainable fishing," said Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace E.U. oceans policy director. "The Commission has acted for the first time to curb the effect that European fish imports have on the long term viability of global fish stocks and the fight against illegal fishing. We believe that today's announcement will serve to motivate all six countries to improve fisheries management and help create a better future for their seas and fishermen."

The Environmental Justice Foundation also applauded the moves, with the foundation's executive director, Steve Trent, pointing out the warning to South Korea in particular.

"It shows that the E.U. is prepared to act against major fishing nations failing to act on pirate fishing," he said. "This should be seen as a victory for the coastal communities in West Africa that have worked to document these rampant abuses. Unless there is a dramatic improvement in Korea's performance, its imports should be banned from the E.U."


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