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Call for Strengthening Fight Against Illegal Fishing in the EU

12 July 2013

EU - Three and a half years since the EU IUU Regulation to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing came into force, the Environmental Justice Foundation is calling for the deficiencies in its implementation to be addressed, for the European Commission to play an effective coordination role and for all Member States to work proactively to eradicate IUU fishing

On 1 January 2010, the EU IUU Regulation placed the EU at the forefront of global efforts to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, providing a framework for illegal fish to be seized in European ports, flag States to improve their monitoring and control, and coastal States to engage in protecting their marine resources. But flag States without adequate controls over their fishing fleets, and whose vessels are engaged in IUU fishing, are continuing to export fish to the EU.

In a report launched 9 July, EJF shares its experience in documenting IUU fishing and invoking the Regulation, highlighting the practical difficulties and providing a number of recommendations to ensure the success of the IUU Regulation. Far from being a criticism of the Regulation, Keeping Illegal Fishing out of Europe aims to encourage its effective implementation.

This week the EJF Oceans team is in Brussels meeting with Gabriel Mato MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, Struan Stevenson, Senior Vice Chair of the Fisheries Committee, and delivering their new report to the 49 members of the Fisheries Committee. EJF will present their findings to the Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki’s office and other key departments in the European Commission.

The Regulation has enabled artisanal fishing communities in West Africa, where EJF operates, to provide evidence of industrial IUU fishing activities. Through their community surveillance project, EJF has received over 200 reports of IUU fishing by industrial fishing vessels in West Africa, many of which sell their catches to the EU. EJF has used satellite technology and other sources of information to track fish to the European marketplace, often invoking the application of the Regulation.

Since 2010, EJF has regularly sent the EU Commission documented notifications called ‘IUU Alerts’ in accordance with the Regulation, engaging with the Commission and with national fisheries authorities in European Member States to identify and bring to account vessels and persons involved in IUU fishing.

Whilst there are examples that this innovative legal tool is having an impact, EJF’s research shows there are issues with the Regulation that clearly need to be addressed. The lack of uniformity in the implementation is compromising efforts to keep IUU fish out of the European marketplace and is leading to diversions in trade to the least controlled ports. The growing trend in containerising fish presents a need for scrutiny of trade flows and the movement of fish. Substantial evidence suggests that flag States are falling short of their responsibilities and the validation of catch certificates cannot be relied on.

Addressing IUU fishing requires a genuinely coordinated effort that includes Governments, civil society, the seafood industry and other stakeholders. The political will to guide and sustain such an effort is urgently needed. Without it, some of the most vulnerable communities and marine environments will continue to suffer the impacts of IUU fishing, and the fish caught by unscrupulous, poorly-regulated operators will continue to enter the EU marketplace.

As the world’s most valuable seafood market, the EU is both duty-bound and perfectly placed to act. EJF is calling for the proactive implementation of the IUU Regulation.

Gabriel Mato MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee, said: "IUU fishing can potentially destroy our oceans and the future of our industries by introducing low cost fish into our market, caught disregarding the rules that are there to ensure there is a future for the generations to come. Governments should take the responsibility to thoroughly control imports in their ports, and to reject all consignments that do not comply with the law".

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

TheFishSite News Desk

Top image via Shutterstock

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