New NGO report compares import control schemes aimed at tackling IUU

Date: January 9, 2020

Source: Undercurrent News

Differences in global import control and catch documentation schemes allow illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing operators to exploit loopholes, and result in a lack of clarity and additional bureaucratic burden for industry, a group of NGOs has warned in a new report.

Successfully tracing a seafood product through all relevant stages of its supply chain requires information on key data elements (KDEs) which correlate to a seafood product’s who, what, when, where and how. The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Oceana, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF have launched a report which highlights 17 KDEs that they think should accompany any fisheries product that is imported into a market state and that form the basis of any robust import control system.

These KDEs include, but are not limited to, the vessel’s flag, catch area, International Maritime Organization (IMO) number, fishing authorizations, transshipment declarations, unloading ports and catching methods.

The EU introduced its catch documentation scheme in 2010, covering all marine wild-caught fish traded by non-EU countries into the EU market. The US introduced its own import controls, known as the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) in 2016, which covers 13 types of seafood identified as the most vulnerable to IUU fishing and seafood fraud. “As other countries begin to develop their own systems, most notably Japan, it is vital to understand the benefits and disadvantages of these diverse systems operating today,” said the NGOs.

The new report compares the EU and US import control schemes, as well as measures by regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs), against the 17 recommended KDEs. While the EU currently requests 13 out of these 17 KDEs, the US requests 12.

Japan has not yet set up a targeted and national import control scheme, but does comply with the KDE requirements of four RFMOs, namely the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas; the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources; the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna; and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.

“The assessment shows that the EU and US systems are 59% aligned with each other, demonstrating a clear opportunity for greater harmonization and information sharing between the world’s two largest seafood markets. Stronger alignment between these systems would be beneficial for fishers and supply chain actors who currently sell or process catch for both markets, or may seek to do so in the future, reducing the cost of complying with multiple systems.”

Better unified controls on seafood imports into main markets are needed to prevent IUU fishing products from being redirected into regions without proper measures in place, explained Samantha Burgess, head of European marine policy at WWF.

“When market states and RFMOs harmonize their approach to import controls, both the market states and nations exporting their seafood benefit, as a universal understanding of the fisheries value chains minimizes the need to comply with multiple systems which don’t align, while supporting sustainable blue economies and thriving fish populations in our ocean.”