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Questions and Answers - What is IUU fishing?

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 4 december 2020.

ON IUU IN GENERAL

What is IUU fishing?

IUU stands for illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing.

The European IUU legislation applies to all fishing vessels, under any flag, in all maritime waters.

A fishing vessel is notably presumed to be engaged in IUU fishing activities, if it is shown to carry out activities in contravention with the conservation and management measures applicable in the area concerned. This includes, inter alia, fishing without a valid licence, in a closed area, beyond a closed depth or during a closed season, or by using prohibited gear, as well as the failure to fulfil reporting obligations, falsifying its identity, or obstructing the work of inspectors.

Why is the Commission committed to solving the problems of IUU fishing?

IUU fishing is one of the most serious threats to the sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources, jeopardising the very foundation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the EU's international efforts to promote better ocean governance. IUU fishing also represents a major hazard to the marine environment, the sustainability of fish stocks and marine biodiversity. IUU furthermore results in unfair competition for those fishermen and women who abide by the rules.

The Commission, in line with the European Green Deal objectives, committed in the Biodiversity Strategy 2030 to strengthen the protection of marine ecosystems and to restore them to achieve “good environmental status”.

What is the policy of the EU to fight illegal fishing?

The EU is the world's largest import market for fisheries product and bears a responsibility as market State to ensure that products stemming from IUU fishing activities do not access the EU single market.

The EU IUU Regulation entered into force on 1 January 2010. It applies to all landings and transhipments of EU and third-country fishing vessels in EU ports, and all trade of marine fishery products to and from the EU. It aims to make sure that no illegally caught fisheries products end up on the EU market.

To achieve this, the Regulation requires flag States to certify the origin and legality of the fish, thereby ensuring the full traceability of all marine fishery products traded from and into the EU. The system thus ensures that countries comply with their own conservation and management rules as well as with internationally agreed rules.

How does the EU ensure that third countries exporting their fishery products to the EU comply with their international obligations?

So far, 92 third countries have notified the Commission that they have in place the necessary legal instruments, the dedicated procedures, and the appropriate administrative structures for the certification of the catches by vessels flying their flag.

The Commission cooperates with a number of third countries and carries out evaluation missions to assess their compliance with the international obligations in the fight against illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing. Moreover, the Commission establishes IUU dialogues with third countries in view of supporting them in strengthening national policies to eliminate IUU fishing. Since November 2012, the Commission has been in dialogues with more than 60 countries, which have been warned of the need to take strong action to fight IUU fishing.

The Commission puts emphasis on cooperation to solve problems but there are third countries where the situation is still problematic even after years of informal cooperation. In those cases, the Commission can resort to the different actions established by in EU IUU Regulation vis-a-vis non-cooperating third countries in fighting IUU fishing.

Concretely, when the Commission has evidence that a third country does not cooperate fully in the fight against IUU fishing, it will issue a yellow card. With this first step of the process, called pre-identification, the EC warns the country of the risk of being identified as a non-cooperating country. The yellow card starts a formal dialogue in which the Commission and thecountry work together to solve all issues of concern. In most cases, this dialogue is productive and the pre-identification can be removed (green card).

If however, progress is not sufficient, the Commission will identify the third country as non-cooperating. This is called a “red card”. The Commission will then propose to the Council to add this country to the list of non-cooperating countries. Fisheries products from the country in question will hereafter be banned from the EU market.

At every step of the process (yellow/red card or listing), the third country can prove that the situation has been rectified. It will then be delisted (green card).

An overview of the process can be found in this infographic.

Which countries have so far received a yellow or red card?

Out of the 27 procedures that have started since 2012, only three countries have failed to take sufficient measures to lift the yellow or red card. These countries are Cambodia, Comoros and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

A full overview of all past and ongoing procedures can be found here

ON IUU FISHING AND KIRIBATI

What are the concrete achievements that led the Commission to lift the yellow card of Kiribati?

The decision to lift the IUU yellow card of Kiribati follows the constructive cooperation of the country's fishery authorities with the Commission resulting in a comprehensive and structural reform of their fisheries legal and policy systems in order to curb IUU fishing. Measures taken include:

  • Comprehensive review of the fisheries legal framework in line with the International Law of the Sea, including a deterrent sanctioning scheme
  • Full reform of the fisheries control system, with a sound system of registration and control of the fishing vessels transhipping and landing in the main ports
  • Strengthening of the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance tools, including the full coverage with Vessels Monitoring System (VMS) of the industrial fleet
  • Improving the controls throughout the supply chain by laying out the requirements for port entry and port use and setting the conditions to import and export fishery products
  • Strengthened administrative procedures as well as training, leading to proper enforcement of legislation
  • Improved cooperation with other flag states operating in Kiribati's waters
  • Significant reinforcement of the human resources available for the fight against IUU fishing.

For More Information

Press release: EU lifts Kiribati's “yellow card” following reforms of its fisheries control system

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU) Regulation


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