iLLEGAL FISHING CONTINUES SERIOUSLY TO undermine the sustainability of the world's fisheries and cause huge financial losses of some $10-23.5 billion annually. Illegal activities are especially prevalent in nations with weak government, making developing countries particularly vulnerable.
European fisheries are not immune. An assessment of five largemarine ecosystems around Europe predicts that by 2020, over $14.5 billion in catches, $11.6 billion in stock value and 27,000 jobs could be lost if nothing is done to deal with the problem. European fishing interests are also threatened on the high seas and in other countries' waters where illegal fishing affects the catches of the continent's distant water fleets.
To deal with this, a new European Union (EU) regulation comes into force in January aimed at combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in European waters and beyond. It is one of themost ambitious pieces of EU legislation to promote improvements in environmentalmanagement outside the Union.
The regulation aims to ensure that anyone who wishes to land or export fish and fish products to the EU can only do so if the country under whose flag the fish was caught can show that it has laws and regulations to conserve and manage itsmarine resources, and that these are enforced. The EU can blacklist vessels that are found to have been fishing illegally and countries that fail to take action to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
One of the central elements of the regulation is a requirement for any imports of fish products into the EU to be accompanied by a catch certificate. The certificate is provided by the flag state of the fishing vessel to certify that catches have beenmade legally in accordance with regulations and international conservation and managementmeasures.
The European Commission will only accept certificates of a given flag state once that country has confirmed that 'it has in place national arrangements for the implementation, control and enforcement of laws, regulations and conservation andmanagementmeasures'. Certificates will need to be passed along the entire supply chain, including processors that import and then re-export fish to the EU.
If a vessel is found to be engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the Commission can add it to a list of such boats. Among the punitivemeasures, listed boats will not be allowed to fish in European waters, enter the port of an EUmember state, and import to or export fromthe Union.
A country can also be listed by decision of the European Council if it has failed to implement adequatemeasures to deal with recurrent illegal fishing by vessels flying its flag, fishing in its waters or using its ports, as well as to preventmarket access for illegally caught fishery products.
Actions against such so-called 'non-cooperating third countries' include prohibiting imports of fish products from vessels flying their flag and a freeze on negotiating new fisheries partnership agreements with the EU to grant European fleets access to a listed country's waters, as well as possible termination of existing agreements. In addition, the EU can implement short-termemergencymeasures if actions by a third country undermine conservation and management by a regional fisheries management organisation.
Concerns have started to surface, in particular among developing countries andmajor processors, about their ability to comply with the regulations in time.Many exporters to the EU will be …