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EU Declares Zero Tolerance On IUU

EU - Speaking at the 6th International Forum on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, Maria Damanaki, the EC Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries declared a zero tolerance policy on illegal fishing.

The EU regulation to fight IUU fishing came into force on January 1st 2011.

Describing IUU fishing as a crime, Ms Damanaki said that not only does it harm the environment but it also undermines conservation efforts, disrupts markets with unfair competition, damages law-abiding fishermen and destroys fish stocks.

"Before our IUU regulation, illegal fishing was one of the major threats to fish stocks, jeopardising the very foundation of any fisheries policy. Let me give you an idea of these devastating activities: IUU fishing was, prior to 2010, the second largest producer of fishery products in the world, worth approximately 10 billion Euros. This figure represents 19 per cent of world-wide catches."

She said that the IUU regulation is the blueprint for our zero tolerance policy against illegal fishing. "I dare say that we have curbed this trend in 2010 and the results are yet to be improved in 2011 and onwards."

The logic of this regulation is a simple one: To prevent illegal fishing by taking away the possibility to make a profit from it. To make the marketing of illegally caught products extremely difficult, if not impossible.

"Improving the cooperation between flag, coastal, processing and marketing States, we ensure that all imported fish to the EU is traceable. We ensure the traceability of every fishery product with a catch certificate. So, every fishery product entering the EU, must be accompanied by such a certificate. The catch certificate is given by the flag state of the vessel. It is a guarantee for us that the fish was caught in line with international rules on conservation. This system helps us to ensure full traceability “from net to plate”. As a result, no products derived from IUU fishing should ever appear on the EU market or on markets supplied by the EU. "

Under the regulation, all flag states must demonstrate and successfully control their vessels and sanction them for breaking rules. Countries that don't do this will not be permitted to trade fish with the EU.

Furthermore vessels which are not sanctioned for their illegal activities by the flag States will end up on the EU black list of IUU vessels. Moreover if an EU national, let's say a Greek, is caught in IUU activities under a foreign flag, then Greece has to prosecute this person. To make the inspection circle complete there is also the port state control rule. This rule obliges the authorities of the landing port to check that fish has been caught in line with international rules.

"The first year of implementation of the Regulation has been crucial. Off the record, I can mention that we have been warned by a number of operators who were concerned that trade flows might be disrupted and that third-country flag States would not be able to cope with the requirements. Today, a year later, we can safely say those fears were exaggerated. Of course, life is now much more difficult for operators trading in illegal fishery products. But for the vast majority of honest operators the implementation has gone smoothly. Moreover several developing countries praised our regulation, as it allows them to introduce new national legislation to better control and monitor their own fisheries industry.

"So what does the world look like today after we introduced our IUU regulation? I am pleased to inform you that in general Member States authorities have taken their role seriously. Before accepting consignments, they now carry out thorough verifications. The outcome of these verifications in 2010 was the following: Member States have refused imports in 14 cases. In addition, 228 inspections of third country vessels were reported in 2010 by Spain, Denmark, Portugal and the UK. An additional 4850 inspection were carried out under the Joint Deployment Plan. As a result 240 infringements were detected in 2010.

"This proves that our fight against illegal fishing is bringing about concrete results. I can tell you that, already in the first year of implementation, operators are shifting their sourcing to companies, where they are certain that they strictly comply with the rules. Due to our extensive efforts supporting third countries in implementing this Regulation, 90 of our trading partners have implemented the catch certification scheme.

"But I also need to point out that some of our former trade partners are no longer accepted as such. Some third countries, usually countries with flags of convenience, simply chose not to notify the Commission; as a result we have banned imports from these countries. Others have been asked to submit notifications which the Commission considers are incomplete, as they do not show that the country controls its fishing vessels, and their activities. "

the Fish Site Editor

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