Today the Commission expands the 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In Sierra Leone legal texts governing fisheries are outdated and sanctions fail to deter illegal operators operating internationally under the flag of Sierra Leone, without the fisheries authorities' knowledge.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. By today it has amended its legal framework, strengthened sanctions and improved its fleet control.
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.
In this context, the Commission attaches particular importance to the ongoing dialogue with Thailand. The country was warned with a yellow card due to its inadequate fisheries legal framework and poor monitoring, control and traceability systems. Like all pre-identified countries, Thailand was proposed an action plan to address shortcomings. The Commission is currently evaluating progress. The dialogue is proving difficult and there remain serious concerns about the steps taken by Thailand to fight IUU fishing activities. This means that further action by the Commission cannot be ruled out. A meeting with the Thai authorities in May will be a new opportunity for them to show their good will and commitment.
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. In case of significant progress, the Commission can end the dialogue (lifting the pre-identification status or "green card").
Formal dialogue is being held with Curacao (since November 2013), the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (since December 2014), Thailand (since April 2015) and with Taiwan and the Comoros (since October 2015). Fisheries products caught by vessels from Guinea and Cambodia are banned from being imported into the EU since November 2013 (identification and listing or "red card").