Damanaki: New IUU fishing law paying off
The new catch certification scheme enacted to prevent illegally harvested seafood from reaching the marketplace is paying off, according to EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki.
At the Sixth International Forum on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in London on Friday, Damanaki asserted that the catch certification scheme, which requires full traceability of all seafood products imported into and exported from the European Union, is working 12 months after it entered into law.
According to Damanaki, member states have halted 14 deliveries of seafood imports, with 228 inspections of third-country vessels reported by Spain, Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom. An additional 4,850 inspections were carried out under the Joint Deployment Plan, with a resulting 240 infringements uncovered in 2010.
Prior to 2010, IUU fishing represented a considerable EUR 1.1 billion in seafood imports annually — almost 16 percent of all fish imports into the European market.
“We ensure the traceability of every [seafood] product with a catch certificate,” said Damanaki on Friday.
Every seafood product entering the EU must be accompanied by a catch certificate. The certificate is given by the vessel’s flag state and “is a guarantee for us that the fish was caught in line with international rules on conservation,” said Damanaki. As a result, no products derived from IUU fishing “should ever appear on the EU market or on markets supplied by the EU,” she explained.
But critics argue that the traceability system does not go far enough. Speaking at the Seafood Choices Alliance Seafood Summit in Paris last year, Melania Borit, senior executive officer for the Norwegian College of Fishery Science in Tromso, believed that the laws “do not impose either a functional or a comprehensive traceability system.”
Borit argued that the law was a good place to start because they introduce the traceability concept to simple seafood supply chains, which may help deter IUU fishing. But she felt that the new rules needed to be tighter with a more comprehensive traceability system.
“Traceability is a powerful tool to deter IUU fishing if it’s properly implemented and supported by strong policies on fisheries,” she said. “The system that has been introduced is not a traceability system and cannot be one without unique identification numbers.”
At last week’s conference, Damanaki raised the problem of how illegal fishing is not just a concern in European waters but a global matter: “If our neighbor keeps plundering the seas, then all our legal and moral obligations and all our conservation efforts will be for nothing.”
In consequence, Damanaki believes that a worldwide catch certification system should be “the next step.”
“I am convinced that such a worldwide program would bring about a fair trade in [seafood] products. It would foster an international commitment to combat IUU fishing and ultimately better deliver on a sustainable world fisheries,” she said.
Better control and regulation, reiterated Damanaki, must also come from reform — slated for 2012 — to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.