The Commission also adopted a Communication on the key achievements of the IUU Regulation in the first five years of its enforcement.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is a major threat to global marine resources as overfishing destroys the livelihoods of many communities who depend on fisheries. It is estimated that between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally a year, corresponding to at least 15% of world catches. Its global value reaches up to 10 billion euros per year.
As the world's largest importer of fisheries products, the EU has adopted a firm stance against illegal fishing worldwide. No access of fisheries products is allowed to the EU market, unless they are certified as legally fished. Such trade sanctions are currently in place for Cambodia, Guinea and Sri Lanka, which received a red card from the Commission.
European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: "Today's decisions demonstrate the determination of the European Union to bring important players on board in the fight against IUU fishing. Both Ghana and Papua New Guinea have taken ownership of their fisheries reforms and now have robust legal and policy frameworks in place to fight IUU fishing activities. I am calling on the authorities of the Comoros and Taiwan to follow their example and join the European Union in promoting legal and sustainable fisheries worldwide.”
The decision to issue a yellow card to Taiwan is based on serious shortcomings in the fisheries legal framework, a system of sanctions that does not deter IUU fishing, and lack of effective monitoring, control and surveillance of the long-distance fleet. Furthermore Taiwan does not systematically comply with Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) obligations.
The Comoros have partly delegated the management of their fleet register to a private company located offshore. This fishing fleet operates in breach of Comorian law and is not monitored by the Comorian authorities. Further shortcomings exist in the country's legal framework, their system of sanctions, the management of fisheries resources, and in monitoring, controlling and surveillance.
The Commission has proposed a tailor-made action plan and given the Comoros and Taiwan six months to resolve the identified issues. If the shortcomings are not addressed within six months, the EU could consider trade sanctions on fisheries imports. Fisheries exports to the EU from Taiwan amount to 13 million euro yearly.
In more positive news, both Ghana and Papua New Guinea have successfully addressed the shortcomings in their fisheries governance system since receiving warnings from the Commission in November 2013 and June 2014 respectively. They have amended their legal frameworks to combat IUU fishing, strengthened their sanctioning systems, improved monitoring and control of their fleets and are now complying with international law.
As Ghana and Papua New Guinea join the growing list of countries (Korea, the Philippines, Fiji, Belize, Panama, Togo and Vanuatu) that have reformed their systems, following a warning by the EU, the Commission looks forward to working with these international partners against IUU fishing.
Fighting illegal fishing is part of the EU's drive to ensure the sustainable use of the sea and its resources, in line with the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and better governance of the oceans worldwide, as also shared in the commitments made in the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 14: Life Below Water).