During the course and furtherance of the World Ocean Summit in June 2015 hosted by The Economist in association with the National Geographic in Cascais, Portugal, Sir James R. Mancham, founding President of the Republic of Seychelles, raised the question of the European Union (EU) flagged-vessels allegedly involved in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the waters of African countries.
Yesterday (August 4), Ms. Lowri Evans, Director-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission in Brussels has responded to Sir James’s comments on the issue in a letter to him on the subject.
“Dear Mr. Mancham,
Following up on your statements made at the World Ocean Summit in June 2015 regarding EU-flagged vessels allegedly involved in IUU fishing in the waters of African countries, I would like to inform you about the state of play in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing which is of paramount importance for the European Union.
The European Union has put in force in 2010 a specific legal instrument to fight IUU fishing, the Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 (the IUU Regulation). The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, makes an intensive use of the numerous tools established by the IUU Regulation, such as the EU catch certificate scheme (which allows for the proper traceability of fisheries products from ‘net’ to ‘plate’), the EU system of mutual assistance, the cooperation with third countries in the fight against IUU fishing and the list of IUU vessels. The work of the Commission has brought concrete positive results in the fight against IUU fishing.
Since 2010 the European Commission has investigated more than 200 cases of presumed IUU fishing by vessels from 27 countries including European ones. As a direct consequence of these actions, 8 flag States and 4 coastal States have imposed sanctions against more than 50 vessels for a total amount of roughly 8 million of euros. Following on from these results, the Commission continues its efforts and is closely cooperating with Member States and third countries circulating information and requesting actions for cases of presumed IUU fishing activities of vessels.
To date more than 180 alert messages were sent from the Commission to Member States authorities to help them target their controls, cope with risk situations and request investigations on presumed IUU fishing activities and serious infringements.
As a direct consequence of the firm determination of the European Union and its Member States to tackle IUU fishing activities and of the exchange of information between authorities, an increasing number of imports to the European market are being rejected by Member States. The Commission is also cooperating with almost 50 third countries on issues concerning compliance of countries with international law rules for flag, coastal, port or market States.
The European Commission is cooperating closely with third countries on the implementation of the EU catch certification scheme and measures against IUU fishing.
More than 55 developing countries have received technical assistance from the European Union through two programmes: ACP Fish II (30 million euros) and Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources including Energy (ENRTP) amounting to 2 million euros. Third countries can also prioritize fisheries and the fight against IUU fishing in the programmes financed by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO).
The European Union uses all bilateral and multilateral channels to render IUU fishing a less lucrative business including through our work in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). The European Union has been promoting the ratification of the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing to allow for its entry into force. The European Union will also continue to technically and financially support the establishment of a Global Register for Fishing Vessels which should also contribute to the fight against
The European Union and its 28 Member States are parties to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA). We hope that the UNFSA Review Conference which will be held next year will help us improve the implementation of its provisions and enable other states to become a party. This is necessary to ensure that we can be successful in tackling remaining challenges such as the poor state of some fish stocks, fishing overcapacity, IUU fishing, diminishing ecosystem impacts of fisheries and improving compliance in order to achieve the sustainable development of oceans and their resources for the global benefit.
The European Union vessels, which are closely monitored by Member States, have very strong incentives to refrain from engaging in IUU fishing or related activities. Should you have any evidence of EU-flagged vessels engaging in such activities, we kindly invite you to submit any information you might have in order to investigate and act decisively against any wrongdoings.
The European Commission is looking forward to working with you on issues related to international oceans governance. We would encourage you to respond to the consultation on international oceans governance recently launched by Commissioner Velia. The details of the consultation can be found here.
In a statement issued this morning from the Island of Majorca, Spain, where Sir James is enjoying a short summer vacation from his international commitments, the Seychelles’ international statesman said that he welcome and appreciate the response he has received from the European Commission concerning the issue of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.
Sir James said that by the law of average, the European Union is playing a leading and important role in ensuring the survival of sustainable fishing in the global interest. He said that despite all internal problems of a financial nature like the Greek tragedy, Brussels has remained steadfast in keeping on line with its international obligations. That is why he personally believes that the European Union must maintain its cohesion in the global interest.
Sir James said that more young Africans should be made attracted to become qualified fishermen to reap the benefits of their rich coastal and beyond fishing potential instead of braving the waves of seas around them and become pirates – or to leave behind their potentially rich country and aim to cross the Mediterraneans as illegal immigrants because of the false notion that the streets of European cities are paved with gold.