News / Europe

EU Rolls Out Trade Bans in Global Crackdown on Illegal Fishing

FILE - A fisherman sits on his boat in a small port on the island of Baengnyeong.
FILE - A fisherman sits on his boat in a small port on the island of Baengnyeong.
Observers say the European Union is poised to hand South Korea a so-called "red card" next month unless Seoul is able to convince the EU fisheries commissioner that it is cracking down on illegal fishing by boats flying its flag.
 
South Korea, along with Ghana and Curacao, last year was handed a "yellow card" warning. Continuing violations by South Korean-flagged ships, many in waters off the coast of West Africa, could bring further sanctions this year.
 
Belize, Cambodia and Guinea, in March of this year, were penalized with the first-ever EU red cards for pirate fishing.
 
The red card means those countries cannot sell their seafood in EU countries nor fish in member countries' waters.
 
Steve Trent of the Environmental Justice Foundation, which tracks illegally caught fish heading to EU markets, praised the new tough regulation for Europe/.

"It's beginning to show its teeth. And that is what is happening with regard to [South] Korea. We are seeing the European Commission saying, 'you haven't done enough," he said. "What you have done doesn't satisfy us. And unless you do more there will be penalties.'"
 
EU Aims for Public Shaming in Crackdown on Illegal Fishing
 
Since 2010, the EJF has documented more than 200 cases of South Korean ships allegedly targeting high-value fish species in waters off West Africa. The organization says South Korean pirates routinely fish in protected areas, flee fisheries patrols, refuse to pay fines, cover their identification markings, transship fish illegally at sea and attack local fishermen. It says on some of the vessels, workers as young as 14 are forced to live and work at sea in deplorable conditions for months at a time.
 
If South Korea is given a red card, it will have repercussions beyond maritime commerce, contends the EJF's Trent.
 
"The other thing that happens is brand Korea gets some damage. This would be an international rebuke. It doesn't look good for the country," he says. "It's saying that they can't look after their own and their own responsibilities. And I think in some respects that is perhaps even more damaging for the country than the relatively modest embargo on trade exports."
 
Illegal Foreign Catches Still Enter US Seafood Market
 
A new study, published in the journal Marine Policy, on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IIU) fishing looks at seafood entering the United States. It finds 40 percent of the tuna from Thailand is illegal or unreported. That was also the case with 70 percent of salmon imports and 45 percent of pollock, both from China.
 
The lead author of the report, Pramod Ganapathiraju, a researcher at the Fisheries Center at the University of British Columbia, said the U.S. and other major seafood importing markets, such as the European Union, China, Japan and South Korea, see most of the product coming in through containers and cargo ships.
 
"The volumes are quite high. But, at the same time, the amount of manpower that is needed to make sure that illegal catches don't enter these markets is quite low in most of these importing countries," explained Ganapathiraju. "So they need to increase the manpower to improve monitoring, control and surveillance at their ports."
 
A 2009 government report found that only about two percent of seafood imports in the United States were being inspected at the ports. There is no public data for most other major import markets.
 
The U.S. Senate last month gave its approval to the 2009 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's Port State Measures agreement. It is designed to keep foreign vessels suspected of illegal fishing out of the ports of nations which have signed the pact. Ten coastal countries and the EU have already ratified it but similar approval from 14 others is still needed for the treaty to take effect.
 
The agreement as an affordable way to stop illegal fish from entering the global market, Long argues.
 
"The fisherman have to bring it to port. Therefore to focus on that rather than the expensive resources that you need to patrol out at sea or draw in space [satellite] surveillance, the ports are the obvious place," said Anthony Long, who runs the Ending Illegal Fishing Project for the Pew Charitable Trust. "It's definitely cost effective. So the developing countries will get a lot of benefit from the Port States Measures agreement."
 
Campaign Against Illegal Catches Finds Industry Allies
 
Long explains there are problems all along the seafood supply chain.
 
"I was surprised to find just how easy it is to manipulate the system," he said. "The U.S., the European Union, Japan, all big markets can start to change the shape of fishing by demanding clearer understanding of the chain of supply -- that supply from the moment the fish is caught to the moment it arrives on your plate."
 
Long, a retired British Royal Navy commander, noted that some seafood suppliers are becoming conscientious.
 
"Different suppliers are now getting very interested in the supply chain and providing that evidence to make their product a prime product that isn't going to be linked to bonded labor or tax evasion or over-fishing or any other illegal entity that tends to be linked to these illegal fishermen," said Long. "We're working with suppliers in order to make sure that we can build a system that they can use and present to their customers in a way the customers will understand."
 
American Richard Conniff, the author of Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth  and other books related to animals, said more pressure needs to be applied on the distributors.
 
"The distributors are the bottleneck," said Conniff. "That's where most of the (sea)food comes into this country. And they are the ones who can stop it by insisting that all merchandise be traceable and that it all be legal."
 
Ganapathiraju at UBC said that during his research, they received a surprising amount of cooperation from distributors because they are not able obtain the same amount of fish year to year.
 
"The catches are being depleted. But the demand is going up in these export destinations. And they're not able to cope with the demand because there is so much over-fishing happening, as well as illegal fishing from other destinations," said Ganapathiraju. "That's the reason they're so open to discuss that."
 
Chinese Regulators Expected to Determine Global Approach
 
Activists, such as the EJF's Steve Trent, predict China -- with a huge and growing appetite for seafood -- will eventually be the most critical player when it comes to combating IUU fishing.
 
"The way the Chinese government and authorities act towards fisheries on a global platform in the future will determine much of everyone's policy," said Trent.
 
Conniff said China and other nations have little choice but to make changes or face dire ecological consequences.
 
"There's an incentive for China and for all these other countries to change and to change fast because at this point 85 percent of all fisheries are at or beyond their biological limits," he said.
 
Additional regulatory changes are being implemented to try to stem the tide.
 
Fishing vessels larger than 100 tons will have to acquire a unique identification number that will remain the same even if the boat changes names or flags.
 
There are also plans for a global satellite vessel monitoring system. It would be able to track vessels which switch off existing beacons identifying themselves and their positions when fishing in illegal waters or handing off their illicit catches.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid