EU Warns States to Act Against Pirate Fishing
Jun 10, 2014

EU Warns States to Act Against Pirate Fishing

By EJF Staff

Today, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) welcomes the announcement by the European Commission that the Philippines and Papua New Guinea have been formally warned that they risk facing trade sanctions unless they cooperate in combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU), or ‘pirate fishing'.

This decision could potentially ban EU Member States from importing fish from the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, and prevent EU fishing vessels from operating in the waters of these nations.

The formal announcement was made by the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki. The two countries have been warned over inadequate levels of traceability for seafood they export to the EU and weak controls over vessels that fly their flags. Flag States are ultimately responsible for monitoring fishing vessels operating under their flag and ensuring that they comply with laws and regulations.

“EJF welcomes the next step in the European Commission’s efforts to combat IUU fishing. As the world’s largest seafood market, the EU is right to act as a leader in this effort. The Philippines and Papua New Guinea now have an important opportunity to make rapid reforms to avoid receiving trade sanctions. They must make legal and regulatory changes.” Steve Trent, Executive Director of Environmental Justice Foundation

IUU fishing depletes fish stocks, damages marine ecosystems, puts legitimate fishers at an unfair disadvantage and jeopardises the livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. IUU fishing is estimated to cost between 7 and 17 billion euros annually, representing 11 to 26 million tonnes of catch. The EU IUU Regulation aims to deprive market access for illegal fish, by requiring “catch certificates” for imports into the EU, as well as banning the entry of fish from countries and vessels involved in illegal fishing.

The Philippines and Papua New Guinea, are amongst thirteen countries that have now been warned by the EU since 2012. Earlier this year, three countries that had previously been given similar warnings—Guinea, Belize and Cambodia— failed to cooperate in implementing legal instruments to combat IUU fishing and were designated as ‘non-cooperating’ countries. As a consequence, they are no longer permitted to export seafood to the EU, and EU vessels are not allowed to fish in their waters. Other countries that are currently working to avoid sanctions include South Korea, Curaçao, Ghana, Panama, Togo, Sri Lanka, Fiji and Vanuatu.

In 2012 EJF released a report, Pirate Fishing Exposed, revealing the devastating practice of IUU fishing, which includes vessels fishing inside inshore exclusion zones (IEZ), destroying artisanal fishing nets, attacking local fishers, using child labour, covering their identification markings, using banned fishing equipment, transhipping fish illegally at sea and fleeing to neighbouring countries to avoid fines and sanctions. Governments and industry alike are aware of the devastating impacts of pirate fishing. However, efforts to remove IUU fish from markets and supply chains are frustrated by a lack of transparency in global marine fisheries.

In Sierra Leone, where EJF works with local communities and the government to document and combat pirate fishing, fish is crucial to daily survival, providing 70% of animal protein consumed and employment for 230,000 people. Sierra Leone loses an estimated $29 million to IUU fishing every year, causing a significant impact on coastal fishing communities and the marine environment. It is imperative that action is taken to end this problem.

EJF is strongly calling upon other seafood markets, including the United States and Japan, to join the EU in sending a clear message to poorly performing countries that they must improve their trade practices. Through the implementation of legal instruments, more effective monitoring, and Global Recording of fishing records will take the profit out of IUU and pirate fishing and benefit both the marine environment and the livelihoods and food security of those who depend on it.