Why has the Commission decided to warn the Comoros and Taiwan that they risk being identified as non-cooperative countries?
The Commission's decision to issue a yellow card to the Comoros and Taiwan was taken after thoroughly analysing both countries' national systems for meeting international obligations for fisheries governance. The analyses took into account the deficiencies in the Comoros and Taiwan in the fight against IUU fishing and their respective levels of development.
The reasons for these pre-identifications have been clearly outlined and communicated to the competent authorities in the Comoros and Taiwan, with particular focus on the failings with respect to international obligations as flag, coastal, port and market State. Each decision will also be published in the EU Official Journal.
The Commission will now enter into a more formal dialogue with the authorities of the Comoros and Taiwan, and will propose a formal Action Plan to ensure that the identified deficiencies are addressed.
Why has the Commission decided to withdraw the warnings to Ghana and Papua New Guinea?
The decision to lift the yellow cards from Ghana and Papua New Guinea results from the constructive cooperation between these countries and the Commission, leading to significant structural reforms in their fisheries management systems that allows them to fight illegal fishing. These countries have, inter alia, developed new legislation, increased sanctions, improved their monitoring, control and inspection, and strengthened their traceability systems.
What happens if the Comoros and Taiwan do not improve their situation?
Informal discussions with the Comoros and Taiwan have been ongoing for a number of years and insufficient progress has led to today's pre-identification. In this new stage of formal dialogue the Commission proposes measures to be incorporated into an action plan with clear benchmarks and criteria to demonstrate progress in improving their fisheries governance systems. The Commission will then evaluate progress within 6 months after the publication of the Commission's Decision.
The Commission hopes that the issues with the Comoros and Taiwan can be solved through dialogue and cooperation. If, however, they do not fulfil their duties under international law and fail to take remedial action, the Commission may consider proceeding to the identification procedure ("red card") and listing actions, including possible trade measures.
What is happening with other cases under investigation?
Curacao received a formal warning by the Commission in November 2013 (IP/13/1162). The Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (IP/15/4806) were formally warned in December 2014, while Thailand received a warning in April 2015 (IP/15/4806). All these countries are working towards addressing their shortcomings in line with their respective action plans. The Commission continues to evaluate this progress on a bilateral basis, and dialogue and cooperation are on-going.
What is the situation with the four countries that have previously received "red cards"?
Following a proposal by the Commission, the Council of Ministers adopted trade restrictions against Cambodia, Guinea and Belize in March 2014 (IP/14/304) and against Sri Lanka in October 2014 (IP/14/1132) for their lack of commitment to tackling the problems of illegal fishing. Despite ongoing dialogue and the efforts made by the Commission, the situation for Cambodia, Guinea and Sri Lanka remains unchanged and fisheries products caught by vessels from these three countries are still banned from being imported into the EU. Belize was withdrawn from the blacklist in December 2014 after it adopted lasting measures to address the deficiencies of its fisheries systems.
What are the EU rules in place to fight illegal fishing?
The EU IUU Regulation entered into force on 1 January 2010. The Regulation applies to all landings and transhipments of EU and third-country fishing vessels in EU ports, and all trade of marine fishery products to and from the EU. It aims to make sure that no illegally caught fisheries products end up on the EU market.
To achieve this, the Regulation requires countries to certify the origin and legality of the fish caught by vessels flying their flag, thereby ensuring the full traceability of all marine fishery products traded from and into the EU. The system thus ensures that countries comply with their own conservation and management rules as well as with internationally agreed rules.
In addition to the certification scheme, the Regulation introduces an EU alert system to share information between custom authorities about suspected cases of illegal practices.
What has been achieved so far?
Since its entry into force in 2010, the IUU Regulation's reach and impact on the fight against IUU fishing has increased year-on-year. These far-reaching impacts include:
- investigations on presumed IUU vessels and the subsequent imposition of sanctions by flag states and coastal states concerned;
- refusal of imports into the EU;
- pre-identification and identification of non-cooperating countries;
- listing by the Council of non-cooperating countries;
- acceleration of international cooperation against IUU fishing in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and at bilateral level with more than 50 countries;
- better exchange of information on IUU activities;
- acceptance of the EU catch certification system by third countries.
So far, 92 third countries have notified the Commission that they have in place the legal instruments, procedures and administrative structures to certify the catches by vessels flying their flag.
Since 2010, the Commission has investigated more than 200 cases involving vessels from 27 countries. As a direct consequence of these actions, flag and coastal states have imposed sanctions against almost 50 vessels, amounting to roughly 8m EUR.
Why is the EU communicating to the European Parliament and Council on the application of the EU IUU Regulation now?
The Commission regularly updates the Council and the European Parliament on IUU developments. In addition, Article 55(2) of the EU IUU Regulation obliges the European Commission to, "on the basis of the reports submitted by the Member States and its own observations, […] draw up a report every three years to be submitted to the European Parliament and to the Council". This Communication is an opportunity for the Commission to present the progress made since the Regulation entered into force and to outline the different areas of action.
What does today's Communication say?
The Communication highlights the broad scope of the Regulation and provides examples of the tangible results that have been achieved in the 5 years since the Regulation entered into force. It concludes with considerations on next steps and future measures to be taken in the context of implementing this Regulation. While there are no plans to amend the IUU Regulation, the Commission will continue to work to improve the current systems in place and to simplify and modernise the implementation of the EU IUU Regulation.
A number of technical improvements have been identified that can be introduced on the basis of the current legal text to improve the cost-effectiveness of the current system, making it simpler by moving from a paper-based system to an electronic one. This will increase the traceability of transactions and protect the system from document fraud. Harmonised risk analysis will bring about a more cost-effective approach to the control of catch certificates and reduce the administrative burden for Member State customs authorities. These improvements will be made during 2015-2016.
Externally, the Commission will continue to work with third countries through bilateral cooperation and dialogue as well as the formal process within the pre-identification, identification and listing procedures aimed at correcting the established IUU fishing problems.
Does the EU also cooperate with Member States to enhance control?
The IUU Regulation can only be effective if proper control applies both within the EU and in third country waters. In EU waters the obligations stem from the Control Regulation (1224/2009 EU).
In practice, more than 180 alert messages were sent to EU Member State authorities to direct their controls, check situations of risk, and request investigations on presumed IUU fishing activities and serious infringements. The Commission has also promoted a wider exchange of information and cooperation between the competent authorities in EU Member States. As a consequence Member States have taken more than 200 decisions to refuse imports into the EU.
Figures on IUU fishing
The estimated global value of IUU fishing is approximately 10 billion euros per year. Between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally a year, which corresponds to at least 15% of world catches.
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 The term 'country' with respect to the fishing entity Taiwan is used in the context of the IUU Regulation only