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European Commission - Fact Sheet

Question and Answers on the EU's fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Brussels, 21 April 2016

EU warns Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad & Tobago with yellow cards as they risk being uncooperative in the fight against illegal fishing. Sri Lanka reforms its fisheries system and is delisted.

Why is the Commission warning Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago that they risk being identified as non-cooperative countries?

The Commission's decision to issue a yellow card to Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago was taken after thoroughly analysing each country's system for fisheries governance and record for meeting international obligations. The countries' respective levels of development and engagement against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) resulted inadequate.

The specific shortcomings detected have been clearly outlined and communicated to the competent authorities of Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago, with particular focus on their non-compliance of international obligations as flag, coastal, port and market States.

The Commission will now enter into a more formal dialogue with the authorities of Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago and will propose a formal Action Plan to address the problems.

Why is the Commission proposing to remove Sri Lanka from the list of non-cooperating countries?

Sri Lanka was listed as uncooperative by the Council in February 2015. The proposal to remove Sri Lanka from the list is the result of constructive cooperation between the country and the Commission, which has led to structural reforms in the national fisheries management system. The country has developed new legislation, increased sanctions, improved monitoring, control and inspection and strengthened traceability systems.

What happens if Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago do not improve their situation?

Discussions with Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago have been going on for some time and insufficient progress has led to today's pre-identification. This step opens a new stage of formal dialogue in which the Commission will propose an action plan with specific measures and clear benchmarks and criteria to demonstrate progress. The Commission will then evaluate progress within 6 months from the publication of the Commission's Decision.

The Commission hopes that the issues that Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago face can be solved through dialogue and cooperation. If, however, the countries do not fulfil their duties under international law and fail to take remedial action, the Commission may consider proceeding to identification ("red card") and listing actions, including trade measures.

What is happening with other cases under investigation?

Curaçao 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 were formally warned in December 2014, Thailand received a warning in April 2015 and the Comoros and Taiwan were warned in October 2015. The Commission continues to evaluate progress by these countries in addressing their shortcomings in line with their respective action plans on a bilateral basis, and dialogue and cooperation are on-going.

What about the countries that received "red cards" in the past?

Following Commission proposals, the Council adopted trade restrictions against Cambodia, Guinea and Belize in March 2014 (IP/14/304) and against Sri Lanka in October 2014 (IP/14/1132). Despite ongoing dialogues and efforts, the situation for Cambodia and Guinea remains unchanged and fisheries products caught by vessels from these countries are still banned from entering the EU. Belize was withdrawn from the blacklist in December 2014 and Sri Lanka is being withdrawn from the list today. Both countries have adopted lasting measures to address the deficiencies of their fisheries systems.

Why was Thailand pre-listed?

The main shortcomings that led to Thailand's pre-listing were: inadequate fisheries legal framework, with sanctions that failed to deter; poor monitoring, control and traceability systems; and problematic fisheries management.

Associated problems include human trafficking and slave labour in the fisheries sector. While the EUIUU Regulation does not address human trafficking and working conditions on-board fishing vessels, improvements in the fisheries control system will also improve the control of labour conditions in the seafood industry. At the same time, several Commission services continue to work on the issues of human trafficking and slave labour in Thailand.

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 that aim 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 outreach and impact on the fight against IUU fishing has been increasing year-on-year. These far-reaching impacts include:

  • investigations on presumed IUU vessels and the subsequent imposition of sanctions by the 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;
  • speeding up 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, 91 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 8 million euros.

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, about 200 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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