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How to Fix the EU’s Illegal Fishing Regulation

July 11, 2013
Fish being transshipped between two vessels in West Africa. © EJF

Fish being transshipped between two vessels in West Africa. © EJF

There’s a great new report out from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) on how to ensure success of the EU’s regulation on illegal fishing. As I’ve written before, the EU has rather progressive language to keep illegally-caught fish out of European markets, but it is not yet clear how well that legislation will be implemented. (The U.S., meanwhile, has weaker language and has never been applied in spite of clear evidence of repeat violations by certain states).

EJF’s report comes at a critical time as the EU decides what sort of real, on-the-ground action it will take to keep illegal products out of the country. The report is here. The most interesting takeaways for me are below, and all are accompanied by smart, common-sense reforms in the full report.

1. Patchy catch certification monitoring.

Spain, one of the countries implementing the law most proactively, has provided data showing that 56 out of 124,600 consignments have been rejected since the Regulation came into force in 2010 (0.04 per cent of consignments). This figure is believed to account for over 50 per cent of consignment rejections across the whole of the EU. On the other hand, some Member States are believed not to have investigated or rejected any fish whatsoever since the law came into force, despite significant imports from outside the EU.

2. Exporters of illegally-caught fish are likely sending their products to less-guarded points of entry.

Evidence provided to EJF by Spanish authorities shows a significant decline in the unloading of frozen fisheries products at the port of Las Palmas following the coming into force of the Regulation and the subsequent intensification of inspections. The number of visits by vessels using the port for services other than the unloading of fish has not declined.

3. Increased containerization is a challenge for implementation.

Another area where displacement of IUU fish is of increasing concern is transportation by container. There is anecdotal evidence that fish caught in West Africa is increasingly being transported by container…The Regulation excludes container cargo vessels from the definition of ‘fishing vessel’. Fisheries products transported by containerised cargo ships must be accompanied by a catch certificate, but in practice such ships are not subject to the same requirements as fishing vessels…In addition, a reluctance to open refrigerated containers may contribute to a lower number of physical inspections of conatinerised fisheries products.

4. Lack of attention to evaluating current implementation.

Analysing the quantity of IUU fish entering the EU or the impacts of the IUU Regulation is complicated by a lack of data. There is so far no public information on the number of ‘verifications’ of consignments across all Member States, or rejections of IUU fish.

5. Excellent summary of the regulation in action.

IUU Regulation in Action

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