Vietnam cooperates with Indonesia to fight illegal fishing as “yellow card” review nears

Vietnam and Indonesia have agreed to a deal on regulating fishing in the South China Sea as the former is making efforts to combat illegal fishing following the “yellow card” given by the European Commission last year.

The two countries will strengthen their partnership, cooperating particularly on fishing and other maritime issues, the Associated Press reported, quoting Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. Marsudi held a joint briefing with her Vietnamese counterpart, Pham Binh Minh, in Hanoi, Vietnam on Tuesday, 17 April.

“In maritime and fishing cooperation, we agreed on how to conclude the ongoing issues in this regard,” the Indonesian minister said via a translator. “We have also agreed to try together to complete the demarcation of the exclusive economic zone, because the demarcation of the EEZ between our two countries can enhance the interests of our two peoples as well as ensure security between our two countries.”

Since 2014, Indonesia has blown up and sunk several hundred fishing vessels, including vessels from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand, for allegedly violating its waters. The cooperation with Indonesia is the latest step Vietnam has taken recently to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU).

“On our part, Vietnam will continue to strengthen education and information so as to raise awareness of our fishermen not to violate other countries’ waters,” Minh said, adding that the two sides agreed to establish a mechanism to handle fishing violations in line with both countries’ laws.

The European Commission issued a "yellow card" warning to Vietnam in October 2017, warning Vietnam it could ban its seafood exports entirely unless Hanoi did more to tackle illegal fishing.

Strict and resolute measures applied by Vietnamese authorities following the “yellow card” have led to a sharp reduction of the number of Vietnamese fishing boats operating illegally in other countries, particularly in island states in the Pacific Ocean, Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said in a statement following a visit to the European Union by Agriculture Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong in late March.

Arrests of Vietnamese fishermen and boats in overlapping areas, however, remain an unresolved issue between Vietnam and Indonesia. Vietnam is working to complete the demarcation of the exclusive economic zones with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia in order to resolve some of those border-related problems, the Vietnamese ministry said. 

In mid-May, the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries for the European Union, or DG MARE, will send a working group to Vietnam to assess Vietnam’s efforts to fight IUU. 

The E.U. will use the results of the review process to determine its next steps as to whether issue a red card banning all seafood imports from Vietnam, maintain the country’s “yellow card” status, or rescind it and resume normal trading relations, Vietnam Fisheries Department said 18 April.

“Vietnam is waiting for a fair judgment from the E.U.,” the Vietnamese department said.


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