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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs