European Commission removes red card from Sri Lanka, warns others

Published on
April 22, 2016

The European Commission removed its economically damaging red card against Sri Lanka, citing positive reforms of its fisheries governance system, while warning three other countries of possible future sanctions.

The European Commission’s carding system allows it to introduce seafood trading bans with countries it deems to engage or condone illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Sri Lanka was issued a yellow card in 2012 and received its red card in February 2015, prohibiting it from exporting its seafood to the European Union. In an announcement on Thursday, 21 April, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella praised Sri Lanka for its reforms.

“Sri Lanka has now a robust legal and policy framework to fight illegal fishing activities,” Vella said. “As the fight against IUU fishing is part of the EU's commitment towards sustainability and good ocean governance, each third country that comes on board is an asset.”

Thailand was also warned for a lack of progress on improving its practices since it was given a yellow card a year ago.

“This means that further action by the Commission cannot be ruled out,” the European Commission said in its announcement. “A meeting with the Thai authorities in May will be a new opportunity for them to show their good will and commitment.”

The three countries given warnings by the European Commission in Thursday’s announcement were Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago.

The commission expressed concern about the Kiribati’s capacity to control IUU fishing activities by foreign fleets taking place in its waters.

“There are serious risks that illegally caught fish could be laundered through the ports of Kiribati, as they do not have robust traceability systems in place for fisheries products,” the commission said in the release. “Kiribati's unwillingness to share important information on third-country vessels operating in their waters undermines the commission's work to improve transparency and sustainability of tuna resources in the Western and Central Pacific.”

Sierra Leone was warned for its outdated laws governing fisheries and its weak governance of its flagged vessels operating abroad. The number of fishing vessels licensed by the country exceeds the resources it has to properly screen or monitor them, and the country’s authorities are no properly controlling fishing in the country’s waters, according to the commission.

Trinidad and Tobago also has a large fleet operating internationally without proper domestic oversight, and a poor traceability system that is abets the laundering of prohibited seafood, the commission said in its warning.

“Today's decisions are yet another sign of the EU's determination to fight illegal fishing globally,” Vella said in the announcement.

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