Imports of fish from Belize, Cambodia and Guinea were today banned from the EU, following a vote by fisheries ministers meeting in Brussels. European fishing vessels will also be forbidden from operating in the waters of these countries.
The three countries were among eight identified by the European Commission in November 2012 for failing to tackle illegal fishing. The Commission found that the countries were not monitoring their fishing fleets adequately, were not imposing sanctions on illegal fishing operators and were not developing robust fisheries laws.
Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Vanuatu were removed from this list last year after taking actions to improve their supervision of fishing activity.
Last year a second round of warnings was issued by the Commission. Curaçao, Ghana and South Korea were warned that they too will be added to the blacklist unless they take measures to reform by this year. South Korean vessels are accused of fishing illegally in West Africa.
Maria Damanaki, European commissioner for fisheries, called today’s vote “historic”.
“They demonstrate that the EU is leading by example in the fight against illegal fishing,” she said. “I hope that this blacklisting will act as a catalyst for Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea to step up their efforts and work with the international community to eliminate illegal fishing.”
Sustainable fishing campaigners cheered the move by the EU. “The EU’s efforts to tackle illegal fishing worldwide have truly materialised today with this unprecedented step,” said Maria José Cornax of campaign group Oceana. “We hope that fishing nations around the world are looking today at the EU’s leadership, and are ready to follow this newly opened path towards the definitive elimination of IUU fishing.”
However the campaigners said more transparency is needed in the way the EU makes the decision to add countries to the blacklist. They also want the EU to close a loophole that allows non-EU vessels fishing in the banned countries’ waters to continue exporting their catches to the EU.
Agriculture ministers, who also met today in Brussels, discussed the controversial issue of country-of-origin for meat, but did not make any conclusions. The Commission presented a report to the ministers a report on the feasability and effect of such labelling.
The Commission also briefed ministers on proposed new schemes for promoting agricultural products and promotion of organic farming.
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