The carding process
The EU Regulation to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing requires that third countries (i.e. non-EU) which export fish to the EU or lend their flags to vessels that import into the EU meet strict standards for fisheries management. If these standards are not met, the countries may be ‘carded’, which means that they could ultimately face exclusion of their fish from the EU market.
Countries identified as having inadequate measures in place to ensure their catch is legal may be issued with a formal warning (yellow card). The EU then engages formal discussions with these countries on how to address their shortcomings. If they fail to do so, they risk being identified as ‘non-cooperating’ and having their seafood banned from export to the EU market (red card). On making required improvements, these countries can be delisted (green card).
The process of carding third countries that are failing to take action against IUU fishing is the most notable achievement of the EU IUU Regulation. It incentivises concrete improvements in fisheries management standards with direct benefits to the communities affected by IUU fishing. It also provides a framework for the EU to provide capacity-building and technical assistance to strengthen fisheries management and control in third countries.
Outcomes and further improvements
As of August 2021, the EU has engaged with over 60 third countries seeking improvements in measures to combat IUU fishing, with the majority undertaking key reforms recommended by the EU with no need for warnings. 27 countries received yellow cards to improve their fisheries management; for some, these formal warnings were issued multiple times. Of these, 14 undertook reforms and have been delisted. 6 countries have been identified as ‘non-cooperating’ and issued with red cards, which means a trade ban on their seafood products entering the EU. 4 of these countries – Cambodia, Comoros, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – remain red-carded to date.
The EU IUU fishing Coalition recommends that the EU maintains its cooperative dialogue with third countries, ensuring continued improvement to fisheries management and control systems worldwide, including the ratification of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement and the wider use of International Maritime Organization numbers on vessels.