The European Commission has expanded its global fight against illegal fishing by warning three more countries in the Pacific, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean.
Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago risk being listed as uncooperative in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. At the same time, the Commission lifts the red card and associated trade measures off Sri Lanka, as it has significantly improved its national fisheries governance.
European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: "Today's decisions are yet another sign of the EU's determination to fight illegal fishing globally. It also shows that we can bring important players on board: Sri Lanka has now a robust legal and policy framework to fight illegal fishing activities. As the fight against IUU fishing is part of the EU's commitment towards sustainability and good ocean governance, each third country that comes on board is an asset.”
The EU's warning to Kiribati is based on concerns about the country's capacity to control fishing activities by foreign fleets. There are serious risks that illegally caught fish could be laundered through the ports of Kiribati, as they do not have robust traceability systems in place for fisheries products. Kiribati's unwillingness to share important information on third country vessels operating in their waters undermines the Commission's work to improve transparency and sustainability of tuna resources in the Western and Central Pacific.
In Sierra Leone legal texts governing fisheries are outdated and sanctions fail to deter illegal operators operating internationally under the flag of Sierra Leone, without the fisheries authorities' knowledge. In addition, the number of licensed vessels exceeds the available resources and authorities fail to monitor or control their waters.
Trinidad and Tobago also has a large fleet operating internationally where authorities do not control or inspect foreign vessels, nor cooperate with relevant flag States. The poor traceability system also causes the risk of laundering of fisheries products.
The Commission is proposing a tailor-made action plan that will help put in place robust fisheries management control systems for these countries. If identified issues are not resolved within six months, the EU can consider taking further steps, including trade sanctions on fisheries imports.
On a more positive note, after a lengthy dialogue process Sri Lanka has now successfully reformed its fisheries governance system. The country was issued with a yellow card in 2012 and been listed by the Council in February 2015.
Sri Lanka joins the growing list of countries (Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Korea, the Philippines, Fiji, Belize, Panama, Togo and Vanuatu) that have reformed their systems, following a warning by the EU.
Following on from the EU's announcement, Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Executive Director, Steve Trent, commented: “For a country so dependent on fish, it is critical that Sierra Leone recognizes the importance of combatting IUU fishing. We call on the recently appointed Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Ms. Elizabeth Mans and the Government of President Koroma to act urgently to combat IUU in their waters, weed out corruption and ensure the maximum benefit from this extremely valuable resource accrues to the people of Sierra Leone. EJF offers its full support to help achieve a legal, sustainable and well-managed fishery sector in Sierra Leone”.
“Selling fishing licenses cheap to foreign companies and failing to monitor and regulate their activities will spell disaster for all those in Sierra Leone who depend on fisheries for employment, income and food security. Conversely, by regulating this resource properly, it can generate valuable export driven income while providing for the people of Sierra Leone. Action today will bring huge benefits tomorrow. Business as usual will have huge long-term costs."
“EJF applauds the on-going leadership by the EU Commission in combatting IUU fishing globally”, he adds.