Author: Lewis Smith
Imports of seafood from Sri Lanka will be banned across Europe unless there is a rapid crack down on illegal fishing, the European Commission announced.
Sri Lanka was identified by the European Union in 2010 as having serious shortcomings in tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the situation is getting worse, said European fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki.
However, at the same time she announced the trade ban the commissioner lifted sanctions imposed earlier this year against Belize and said the policy of naming and shaming countries with high levels of IUU fishing is working.
The moved were welcomed by a coalition of environmental groups campaigning for action against illegal fishing globally. Environmental Justice Foundation, Oceana, Pew and WWF said in a statement that it showed EU legislation targeting illegal fishing “was proving successful”.
With Ms Damanaki a matter of weeks from completing her term of office, the environmental groups urged her likely successor, Karmenu Vella from Malta, to continue the drive against illegal fishing.
She hoped the announcement of sanctions against Sri Lanka would act as a “wake up call” to the Asian nation in its approach to fisheries management.
Tuna and swordfish imports worth £59 million (74m €) annually will be the most affected by the import ban due to come into force in January 2015.
Ms Damanaki ordered the import ban two years after an official warning was sent to the Sri Lankan government and the sanctions are deemed necessary because management of the fisheries are getting worse rather than better.
Shortcomings include poor implementation of control measures, and lack of compliance with international and regional fisheries rules.
“In November 2012, we sent a warning to Sri Lanka,” she said. “Two years later, not much has changed. The same problems are still there and are even getting worse. Sri Lanka is now authorizing huge vessels to fish in the Indian Ocean without marine GPS (VMS). This renders control totally impossible.
“Sri Lanka is the second biggest exporter of fresh and chilled swordfish and tuna to the EU. In those circumstances we cannot tolerate not to know whether the fish they import into the EU was caught sustainably or not. EU citizens have the right to know what lands on their plate.
“We are formally identifying Sri Lanka in the fight against illegal fishing. Fisheries products caught by vessels flagged in Sri Lanka will not be able to enter the EU market after three months’ time from now.”
In contrast, trade sanctions which were imposed on Belize in March are to be lifted following legal reforms and significant improvements in rules for the inspection, control and monitoring of vessels.