EU warns 8 countries on illegal fishing

The European Commission has issued a warning to eight countries around the world that the commission feels have not done enough to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The commission has notified the countries — Belize, Cambodia, Fiji, Guinea, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu — and suggested a plan of action for each. The notifications follow a long period of informal conversations between the commission and the countries in question.

The commission has not yet taken further action, but warned that the countries could be identified as “non-cooperative” in fighting IUU, a first for the commission and the EU.

“Should the situation not improve, the EU could take further steps, which could entail trade measures such as a ban on selling fisheries products to the EU,” the commission said in a statement.

The EU is the world’s largest single importer of seafood, and since passing “IUU Regulation” rules in 2010 has been actively fighting IUU fishing. The EU estimates the global value of IUU fishing is approximately EUR 10 billion (USD 12.8 billion) per year, or 19 percent of the reported value of catches.

According to the commission, between 11 and 26 million metric tons of fish are caught illegally a year, at least 15 percent of world catches. Right now, the commission estimates 16 percent of all sea-caught fish imported into the EU is caught illegally.

In its statement, the commission charged the eight countries don’t participate enough in dialogue on the subject, do not properly monitor fisheries, or have insufficient legal frameworks to comply with international law.

Despite this statement and the warnings, European Commissioner Maria Damanaki, who is in charge of maritime affairs and fisheries, said the commission wants to work with the countries to improve the situation.

"This is not a black list, but a yellow card,” she said. “We want these countries as partners to combat illegal fishing. We want them to improve their legal and control systems as required by international rules. But we also want to signal to the world that the EU will not tolerate IUU fishing — a criminal activity which undermines the livelihood of fishing communities and depletes fish stocks. It must be eradicated by all means."


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