The Commission today confirmed its zero tolerance policy against illegal fishing worldwide by warning the Comoros and Taiwan that they risk being identified as uncooperative countries in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. At the same time, the Commission is lifting the yellow cards from Ghana and Papua New Guinea, which have significantly reformed their fisheries governance system. 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).
In a Communication adopted today on the key achievements of the IUU Regulation since its enforcement in 2010, EU's leadership is shown to have clearly affected fishing around the world, decreased illegal activities and improved conditions for coastal communities who depend on fisheries.
The Communication also lays out the next steps in the implementation of the IUU rules: for example, the Commission will continue to work towards simpler, modernised and more cost-effective systems. Externally, the Commission will continue to work with third countries through bilateral cooperation and dialogue, and through the formal process of pre-identification, identification and listing aimed at resolving identified IUU fishing problems.
Today's Decisions are based on the EU's 'IUU Regulation', which entered into force in 2010. This key instrument in the fight against illegal fishing ensures that only fisheries products that have been certified as legal can access the EU market.
Since November 2012 the Commission has been in formal dialogue with several third countries (pre-identification or "yellow card"), which have been warned of the need to take strong action to fight IUU fishing. When significant progress is observed, the Commission can end the dialogue (lifting the pre-identification status or "green card"). This has been the case for Fiji, Panama, Togo and Vanuatu since October 2014 and for Korea and the Philippines since April 2015.
Formal dialogue is ongoing with Curaçao (since November 2013), the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (since December 2014), and Thailand (since April 2015).
A few countries have not shown the necessary commitment to reforms. As a result fisheries products caught by vessels from Sri Lanka (since October 2014), and from Guinea and Cambodia (since November 2013) are banned from being imported into the EU (identification and listing or "red card").
Belize was withdrawn from the blacklist in December 2014 after it adopted lasting measures to address the deficiencies of its fisheries systems.
For more information
The term 'country' with respect to the fishing entity Taiwan is used in the context of the IUU Regulation only
 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing