EU Clears Five States Following their Improvements in Fighting Illegal Fishing, While Red-carding Sri-Lanka
Press Release Date: October 14, 2014
Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Oceana, The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF welcome the announcement by the EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, to lift the threat of trade sanctions for five states which had faced the risk of punitive trade measures for failing to cooperate in fighting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and for red-carding Sri Lanka.
The Commission is proposing to impose sanctions, so called red-carding against Sri Lanka for failing to tackle illegal fishing. While Fiji, Panama, Togo, and Vanuatu which were given a formal warning, known as a yellow card, almost two years ago to improve their control of suspected illegal fishing operations either in their waters or by vessels flying their flag are being de-listed. The Commission has also proposed removing sanctions imposed against Belize, which in March was red-carded with a full ban on importing seafood to the EU. Fisheries ministers will now need to confirm the listing of Sri Lanka and the de-listing of Belize.
The European Commission identified all six states in November 2012 for inadequate monitoring of their fishing fleets or waters, neglecting to impose sanctions on illegal fishing operators, and failing to develop robust fisheries laws.
Today’s announcement mark the first time the EU has removed sanctions, or the threat of them, from states it imports fish from, under a 2010 Council Regulation which aims to restrict access to the EU market to only fisheries products that have been certified as legal by the flag state or the exporting state concerned.
EJF, Oceana, Pew and WWF said the move showed the EU’s legislation to prevent illegally caught fish entering its trade area was proving successful in encouraging states to act. The NGOs praised Commissioner Maria Damanaki for her leadership and urged her nominated successor, Malta’s Karmenu Vella, to continue the fight against IUU fishing, improve transparency in the EU’s fisheries regulation and enforcement, and continue improving the control of illegal fishing to further increase confidence in fisheries products in the EU market. Vella is expected to be confirmed as Commissioner, along with the rest of the College in the coming weeks.
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The latest decision by European Fisheries Ministers was taken under powers in Council Regulation 1005/2008 (the “EU IUU Regulation”), which came into force in 2010. The regulation allows the EU to first yellow card non-cooperating third states as a warning, and finally red card states and impose a series of trade restrictions, if cooperation and commitment to implement key measures to combat IUU fishing – such as strengthening their vessels monitoring and sanctioning systems – are not demonstrated.
IUU fishing depletes fish stocks, damages marine ecosystems, puts legitimate fishers at an unfair disadvantage and jeopardises the livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. IUU fishing is estimated to cost between 7 and 17 billion euro annually, representing 11 to 26 million tonnes of catch. The EU IUU Regulation aims to deprive market access for illegal fish, by requiring “catch certificates” for imports into the EU, as well as banning the entry of fish from states and vessels involved in illegal fishing.
Two states, Cambodia and Guinea, remain banned from exporting to the EU. A second round of yellow cards was issued by the European Commission in November 2013, with Curaçao, Ghana, and South Korea warned that they could also face the same set of trade measures if they do not cooperate in fighting IUU fishing.
The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Oceana, The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF are working in coalition to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
 Agnew DJ, Pearce J, Pramod G, Peatman T, Watson R, et al., “Estimating the Worldwide Extent of Illegal Fishing” (Marine Resources Assessment Group and University of British Columbia, 2009).