Asia Vietnam's efforts in combatting illegal fishing make strong impression on EU

Vietnam’s efforts in combatting illegal fishing make strong impression on EU

Fishing boats coming in and out of seaports are being asked to file reports on their cargoes, the origin of product and ships' logs, writes Cordoba.Ali

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Officials from the European Commission say Vietnam is making great strides in the elimination of illegal fishing, thereby regaining trust in helping to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) activities.

Vietnam’s solid implementation of the recommendations from the EU regarding IUU fishing has impressed the latter’s representative Director for the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries’ International Ocean Governance and Sustainable Fisheries Veronika Veits.

Veits, who was in a working session with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung in Hanoi on November 14, says the quality of enforcement of the IUU framework made a good impression on the EU.

She says the ministries, agencies and localities showed great awareness of their responsibilities while the entire political system affirmed commitment and a strong determination to fight IUU fishing.

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During the discussions, she says she agreed with Deputy PM Dung’s idea to restructure the fleets of fishing vessels and encourage fishermen to switch to aquaculture instead of exploitation at sea.

Shifting to aquaculture is a very important move for Vietnam to combat IUU, she says, adding that it is part of the E.U. recommendations for the government to rope the population onboard plans to divert from sea fishing.

Highlighting the need to rally public involvement in the effort, she lauded Vietnam’s move to build a legal framework in line with international practices to address the issue, including amending Fisheries Law and guideline documents.

The E.U. delegation suggested the government, ministries, agencies and localities should continue to abide by existing laws and enhance the legal enforcement.

Vietnam was also asked to take more drastic actions to prevent fishing vessels from illegally tapping aquatic products in other countries’ waters, which is crucial to have the “yellow card” warning lifted, she says.

She proposed the quick installation of monitoring devices on fishing vessels, especially on large-scale units.

On October 23, 2017, the European Commission (EC) issued an official “yellow card” warning against IUU exploitation of Vietnamese seafood and recommended the key tasks to implement.

Since then, all of Vietnam’s containers of seafood products exported to the European Union were subjected to intense scrutiny which could take three to four hours of inspection each.

This made it difficult for Vietnam to export such products to the EU. To help address the problem, Vietnam had taken concrete steps in the fight against IUU fishing based on the EC recommendations.

Vietnamese relevant authorities were engaged in plans and strategies for different stages to deal with existing infrastructure and awareness shortcomings.

A national committee was founded in May to coordinate efforts made by central agencies and local authorities to combat IUU.

Vietnam also addressed its legal framework and installed trackers on boats to monitor seafood product origin and enforce maritime laws.

New fishery laws, which went into effect on January 1, accompanied by Government decisions and guidelines, incorporated recommendations made by the EC.

Vietnam said the cooperation with the EC is vital to see the removal of the “yellow card” status.

At a lower level, Vietnam’s 28 coastal towns and provinces have each established the anti-IUU units to supervise and inspect fishing activities.

Fishing boats coming in and out of seaports are being asked to file reports on their cargoes, the origin of product and ships’ logs.

To manage the caught seafood, Vietnam started to establish quotas within its territorial waters. This helped in better management of the country’s fishery resources and sustainable development.

At the same time, Vietnamese authorities also recommended the local fishermen to follow the provisions of the law under the IUU “yellow card” and strictly handle violations of fishing vessels by law.

The guidance is directed to owners of fishing vessels who were arrested for illegal fishing in foreign waters. As a result, the number of IUU cases reported in the country has been on the decline in recent years.

With efforts to combat IUU fishing, Vietnam promoted bilateral cooperation with nations in and outside the region to carry out measures in that direction.

They sent several delegates to work with countries and Pacific island nations to exchange information and promote fisheries cooperation.

This helped to bring Vietnamese fishing vessels to follow the fishing laws at the seas surrounding the island nations. It helped eliminate the number of Vietnamese fishing vessels engaged in illegal fishing in these areas.

Vietnam also signed MoUs on bilateral cooperation in the fisheries sector and has annual meetings with the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia and Thailand. Vietnam also set up hotlines with Australia, China, the Philippines and negotiating with Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Palau.

The EU Commission inspectors visited Vietnam from November 4 to November 12. They aimed to review the yellow card imposed two years ago, says the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Before this inspection, the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries led by Gabriel Mato – a member of the European Parliament and committee spokesperson visited Vietnam from Oct. 28 to Nov. 2 2018.

The delegation recognised Vietnam’s political efforts in its commitment to dealing with IUU issues and admits that the country has allocated sufficient human and financial resources in this direction.

The EU has been conducting a review of Vietnam’s fisheries—and seafood-related policies to determine which route it will take out of three options available: Maintain the country’s yellow card status; issuing a red card banning all seafood imports from Vietnam; or rescinding the yellow card and resuming normal trading relations.

With Vietnam’s efforts and active assessments from Veits and her team, there is a strong belief the EU will remove the yellow card and its seafood export to the EU and the U.S. will resume. /TISG

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