EU bans fish imports from Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea

24.03.14 @ 18:48

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea are banned from selling fish to the EU.

  • Between 11 to 26 million tonnes of fish are caught using illegal practices every year (Photo: EUobserver.com)

The blacklist, first proposed by the European Commission and then rubber stamped by the member states on Monday (24 March), is a first for the EU under its illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing regulation from 2010.

“I want EU citizens to know that the fish they consume is sustainable, wherever it comes from. We are steadily moving in that direction,” said EU fishery commissioner Maria Damanaki in a statement.

The ban was imposed because they do not comply with international fishery laws. The laws set out rules to prevent illegal fishing practices.

At €10 million annually, the value of their exports to the EU is relatively low, but NGOs say it sends a strong signal to other larger fishing countries on the commission’s warning list.

“These are not the major importers of fish to the EU,” Marta Marrero at the Brussels-based The Pew Charitable Trusts told this website.

The EU imports some 65 percent of the fish it consumes.

South Korea and Ghana figure among the larger EU exporters. Both, including the small Caribbean island of Curacao, are now on the commission’s radar and face possible sanctions.

All three were issued warnings last November to step up standards to meet international fishing laws or risk import bans.

For its part, South Korea last year imported around €75 million to the EU while Ghana’s shipped around €113 million worth of fish.

Other nations like Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Vanuatu were warned two years ago. All five are said to be making progress in their fishing practices.

NGOs praised the decision on Monday as historic but warn a loophole in the regulation means non-EU vessels fishing in the banned countries’ waters can still export their catches to member states.

EU vessels cannot operate in their waters while boats flying the Belize, Cambodia, or Guinea cannot export to the EU.

But vessels flying flags from other non-EU countries, which fish in Belize, Cambodia, or Guinea, can still sell their catches.

Despite the loophole, EJF’s executive director Steve Trent applauded the EU for taking the decision.

“Whilst it is not perfect, the EU IUU Regulation is clearly the world’s leading piece of legislation in this field,” he said in a statement.

He noted that coastal communities in West Africa, for instance, are seeing the benefits of the EU’s action towards offending vessels and flag states.