European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Statement on IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing / Brussels
26 November 2013
The Commission has today adopted two decisions. Both decisions aim at ensuring the fish we eat in Europe is legally fished. We strictly control our own fishermen. But imports represent 65% of our consumption. The rules against illegal fishing aim at ensuring that imported fish complies with commonly agreed international rules.
The first decision identifies Belize, Cambodia and Guinea (Conakry) as non-cooperating countries in the fight against illegal fishing. We had already pre-warned them in November last year. Despite a formal dialogue, they have not made satisfactory progress. The heart of the problem, for each of the three, is the lack of effective control on their fleet. How can they claim in these circumstances that the fish caught under their flag or in their coastal waters is sustainable?
What does this mean in practice? It means that Member States will now have an additional tool to verify and refuse dubious imports of fishery products from these countries. In parallel, the Commission has submitted a proposal to the Council to place these countries on a final list on non-cooperating countries. Once adopted, fisheries products caught by these countries' vessels will be fully banned from import into the EU.
However, my aim is not to list countries but to ensure improvements on the ground. In fact, our approach of resolute co-operation is bearing fruit. Indeed, the other five countries (Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Vanuatu) warned back in November 2012 have made tangible progress.
Recognising these persistent problems, we today announce a second round of "yellow cards" addressed to (South) Korea, Ghana and Curaçao. These warnings centre on our main area of IUU concern: the coast of West Africa. We hear news every week about pirate vessels for instance in the Gulf of Guinea. We know how harmful this organised crime can be for coastal communities in developing countries. I have heard this story again and again when I was last week in South Africa to attend the ICCAT meeting.
We will work together with these countries formally to intensify our cooperation and resolve the outstanding issues.
Let me conclude: International rules on IUU have been around for more than 10 years now [FAO 2001]. Several coastal states and flag states are completely disregarding these commonly agreed rules. And believe me, it is not an issue of money: a marine GPS (so-called "VMS") costs only about 3000 €. These states are sovereign states, but the EU is sovereign in assuming its responsibility as the world's biggest importer of fish.
The Commission's action today is a stern reminder to all concerned. In view of the critical state of many fish stocks, we have no other choice but enforcing international rules on sustainability.