Illegal Fishing and Vessel Identity Usurpation: Smoke and Mirrors or Dereliction of Duty?

The recently reported case of the Der Horng 569 / Naham No. 4 proves that vessel identity can be usurped with relative ease.

A vessel flagged to Oman and purporting to be the Naham 4 was granted permission to dock in a South African port. Upon inspection on arrival it was found to have mis-declared the amount of fish in was carrying in its hold.

The Naham 4 awaiting auction in South Africa. Credit: Muscat Daily

The Naham 4 awaiting auction in South Africa. Credit: Muscat Daily

Further investigations by South African authorities uncovered the fact that the vessel had been engaged in IUU fishing activity. Its owners, a Taiwanese-owned (but Oman based) company called Al-Naham, are reportedly being prosecuted for their various breaches of South African law as well as the regional conservation rules of the Indian Ocean Trade Commission (IOTC).

Further investigations by NGOs FISH-I Africa and FIS also unearthed that the identity of the Naham 4 was in fact fake. The vessel may have been previously known as the Der Horng 569 and been flagged to Belize.The Taiwanese owners of the Der Horng 569 had reported it stolen in 2009.

It has been reported that upon changing hands the vessel may have been renamed Naham 4 – a name already in use by a different, smaller vessel registered with the IOTC. Apparently up to four vessels may have been operating under the name Naham 4, and that at least two identification numbers have been associated with that name (allegedly IMO 8650057, corresponding to the Naham 3 and IMO Number 7741550, corresponding to the actual Der Horng 569).

The previous owners of the Der Horng 569, a Taiwan-based company, are understood to have commenced legal proceedings against the people behind Al-Naham, with whom they are thought to have been business partners before the Der Horng 569 was declared stolen.

This case illustrates a number of important issues.

The effectiveness of NGO participation and integration in investigative and evidence-obtaining structures is evident here, for example.

Further, the Naham 4 saga perfectly showcases the multi-jurisdictional affair that IUU fishing often is. The cross-border nature of vessel ownership and fishing activities requires a regulatory approach that can only be successful if robust cooperation and effective coordination between different States and agencies. Unfortunately, this means that each regulatory chain is only as strong as its weakest link and that the failure of any one agency responsible for carrying out checks and verification lets down the entire system.

In this particular example Oman, the flag State of the rogue vessel, did not observe agreed international due diligence standards to carry out the pre-registration and historical checks that would have enabled it to know that the vessel had a false identity. By registering the vessel they showed considerable lassitude, giving the Naham 4 the ability to operate under the appearance of legality. For more information on due diligence standards for Flag States in the combat against IUU fishing, please see the 2013 FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance.

The notion that using a fake vessel identity would be more difficult if vessels owners had an obligation to acquire IMO numbers for their ships is well known. We have mentioned in past blog posts that this obligation is coming in, if rather late. It will not be in place in the IOTC area until 2016 at the earliest (see our earlier post “Towards compulsory IMO numbers” here).

Finally, it is worth highlighting that, whilst the pretend Naham 4 rusts awaiting auction in a South African port, its owners have absconded, leaving their South African agent behind with considerable debt. Unsurprisingly perhaps, sources appear to suggest that the pretend Nahab 4’s owners may be linked to previous illegal fishing operations. Vessels are the tools with which unscrupulous individuals engage in illegal fishing, environmental crimes and other types of maritime illegality. All cross-checking and black-listing by governments and public bodies must rightly identify vessels, but if IUU fishing vessels must come out of the shadows, their owners must be brought out with them.

­Sources

http://www.stopillegalfishing.com/sifnews_article.php?ID=151

http://www.muscatdaily.com/Archive/Oman/Naham-No-4-awaiting-auction-in-SA-could-be-stolen-Taiwan-vessel-3d5x

Illegal Fishing Control: Why Europe Needs a Common Software Platform

Council Regulation 1005 / 2008 (the IUU Regulation) is a European Union (EU) legislative tool designed to reinforce and support pre-existing normative measures established by the international community to control illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

 

Transhipment, Central Pacific (Image Credit: underwatertimes.com)

The potential of the IUU regulation to disincentivise IUU fishing practices gravitates around

  • the indisputable power of the EU as port and market State, and
  • on the ability of the EU to implement the IUU regulation in an even and watertight manner.

These are in fact like two sides of the same coin, since loopholes in implementation leading to IUU importation windows can de facto give rise to different standards within the common trade boundary and make coordination impossible.

A recent report offers an insight into progress made in implementing the Regulation, which came into force on the 1st of January 2010.[1] The report offers a useful overview of the different degrees of investment, reorganisation and resource reallocation in each of the Member States pursuant to the requirements of the IUU Regulation.

According to the authors, the catch certification system imposed by the Regulation has placed a heavy administrative burden on Member States. Implementation has been uneven and differences in approach cannot always be attributed to differences in patterns such as seafood trade volume, financial resilience or pre-existing know-how: Whilst large importers such as Denmark and Spain have developed interactive IU tools, others (including some with considerable importation volumes) have not done so. The same is true of intelligence data gathering processes.

For example, highly sophisticated IUU tracking software and data capture systems in Spain have not been replicated (and are not supported) in other Member States. This unevenness in the implementation of the Regulation leads to inefficiencies, penalises better implementation and causes potential diversions of legitimate trade.

Increased data and know-how sharing can address other weaknesses of the IUU Regulation such as the inability of the imports system to deter the duplication of catch certificates during processing operations in 3rd countries.[2] Increased knowledge and sharing of processing methodologies and conversion data could help address this issue.

As no common IT platform exists with the capability to cross-check import volumes, sources, fishing arts, time of capture and composition, States are rendered powerless to flag suspected IUU imports in a timely fashion.

This problem became manifest earlier this year when the Spanish government decided to suspend the importation of Vietnamese swordfish over IUU concerns.[3] According to Madrid sources, an audit identified a volume of 502 metric tonnes (mt) of swordfish captured in 2012 by Vietnamese vessels (according to catch certificate data) being imported into Spain despite Vietnam having declared to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries total capture volumes of only 372 mt for that time period. Vietnam exports swordfish to other European countries, but the capture declaration shortfall had not been identified in any other Member States.

Swordfish (xiphias gladius). Image Credit: fisherynation.com

Swordfish (xiphias gladius). Image Credit: fisherynation.com

If this is alarming, the potential discrepancy between the volumes of West & Central Pacific swordfish declared for 2012 and those actually captured is even more so.

A common software audit platform would enable European Fisheries authorities to identify IUU fishing importation trends as well as to ascertain species under-declaration volumes – such IUU trade-flows could then be used as solid, objective data upon which the Commission could identify third countries for potential inclusion in the EU non-cooperating third country list.

Perhaps this could even be integrated with the public EU alert system once it is operational, so that awareness of IUU fishing trade flows and vessel data and activity could be integrated, shared and uniformly acted upon.

Footnotes:

[1] To access the full MRAG report, click here: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/documentation/studies/iuu-regulation-application/doc/final-report_en.pdf

[2] This weakness was also highlighted in a 2013 report published in April by Sasama and FMP Consulting. To access, click here http://sasama.info/en/pdf/reports_17.pdf)

[3] http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2014/06/30/spain-seeks-eu-wide-suspension-of-vietnamese-swordfish-imports/

Why Addressing Illegal Fishing Could Help Combat Piracy

Large fishing vessel operating in the South Pacific (Credit: www.afma.gov.au)

Large fishing vessel operating in the South Pacific (Credit: http://www.afma.gov.au)

There are many factors that may compromise fish abundance. Some, like the effects of raising temperature, acidification, algal blooms or changing currents can be difficult to predict and act upon. But illegal fishing is one cause of stock depletion that can be addressed and controlled.

Our grossly oversized global fishing fleets are engaged in a fierce effort to capture their share of a decreasing volume of fish stocks. This level of competition, plus a lack of effective fishing vessel controls encourage illegal fishing, organised transnational fisheries crime and cross-over criminal activities.[1]

Like other types of unlawful maritime activity, illegal fishing takes place with more frequency and intensity in coastal maritime regions that governments are less able to monitor, access and control. In these areas, legitimate economic activities have little official protection against the threat of abuse and crime.

Large industrial vessels can illegally harvest vast quantities of fish that subsistence fisherfolk in vulnerable areas depend on. Local official corruption frequently results in the illegal operators being protected and encouraged to act again. Given the efficiency of modern fishing vessels, protracted predatory incursions into the traditional fishing grounds of others may cause enduring fish depletion.[2]

The collapse of fish stocks and ensuing marine environmental degradation are good reasons to put illegal fishing control high on governments agendas. However, recent research by Markus Ludwig and Matthias Fluckiger, of the University of Basel, has highlighted an additional, compelling reason why illegal fishing should be stopped: Piracy.

Photo Credit: Fara Abdi Warsameh, Associated Press

Photo Credit: Fara Abdi Warsameh, Associated Press

Narratives linking foreign illegal fishing as a driver for piracy are not new (see, for example, the work of Bueger on Somali piracy as a form of fisheries vigilantism in Somalia).[3]

However, the Basel University study is novel, taking a wide snapshot of data from 109 coastal countries on the strength of an original, objective methodology to draw its conclusion: That a significant decrease in fish catches can encourage piracy in fishing communities.

The study found that a 1% increase in fish catches can result in a decrease in piracy activity by 1%. The researchers point out that detected increases in piracy activity are likely to be a reaction to the temporary lack in available legitimate income opportunities, rather than a willingness to engage in lifelong criminal careers.

According to the study, the effect of negative fishery productivity changes can be far-reaching, given the detrimental effect that piracy can have on maritime economic activities like transport and other trade.

The logical conclusion is that combatting illegal fishing and prioritising policy measures to discourage it including the prosecution of those involved in fisheries illegality and crime may also be seen as tool to reducing incentives for piracy.

For access to the paper by Ludwig and Fluckiger, see http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/56959 .

[1] For more information on this topic, see Interpol’s Project Scale http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Environmental-crime/Resources .

[2] For a recently reported example, see the case of the Fiji tuna fisheries http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2014/01/20/fiji-tuna-groups-cut-down-fleet-as-industry-faces-total-collapse/ .

[3]http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01436597.2013.851896#.U75_EdxU3fM .

 

European Policy on Illegal Fishing: Emergence of an International Trend?

Google Earth image featuring illegal fishing in European waters

Google Earth image featuring illegal fishing in European waters

Editor’s Note: This blog post was first published on http://iuufishing.ideasoneurope.eu on the 3rd of July 2014.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Union (EU) have singled out illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as one of the main factors contributing to fishery depletion and a key obstacle to achieving sustainability.[1]

IUU fishing and overfishing have already affected the food security of vulnerable populations on land.[2]

At a time when fish has a growing importance in feeding the world, against a backdrop of our rapidly increasing human population, the environmental impacts of IUU fishing are a food security time bomb. This is made worse by the fact that pollution and climate change may also be undermining the ocean’s ability to produce food.

IUU fishing refers to fishing or fishing support activities performed in breach of fisheries management or conservation laws in national or international waters. It is a persistent phenomenon that thrives due to complex interactions.

IUU fishing is a complex problem, symptomatic of underlying factors that can also contribute to insecurity. Examples include a lack of distributive justice in resource access opportunities, inadequate and/or fragile legal and institutional frameworks, an absence of integrated monitoring, control and surveillance mechanisms and poor observance of the rule of law in maritime spaces.

For policies against IUU fishing to be successful, difficult problems such as the lack of governance accountability or the success of illegal global markets in wildlife and natural resources must be tackled.[3] The EU, current leader in the fight against IUU fishing, has developed a trade policy to address some of these issues.

In January 2010 the EU started to enforce a comprehensive system of port and market controls. By way of a pan-European law (Council Regulation 1005/2008 “the IUU Regulation”), the EU has devised a WTO-compatible methodology for detecting IUU fishing trade flows as well as identifying States that do not address the illegal fishing activities of their fleets.[4]

By engaging exporting States in a certification system that guarantees fish capture legality, the European Commission is able to identify exporting countries that allow IUU fishing trade flows to reach Europe. The Commission deals with this by working with such countries in the first instance, under a warning that failure to improve IUU fishing compliance controls may result in trade restrictions.

To date, the Commission has formally warned several countries, namely Panama, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Togo, Vanuatu, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Korea and Ghana. The European Council, following the Commission’s recommendation, has banned seafood imports from Guinea, Belize and Cambodia on IUU fishing concerns.[5]

The IUU Regulation also enables European governments to use port tools in the fight against IUU fishing. For example, it establishes a system of notifications and inspections for fishing vessels and refrigerated seafood cargo vessels. It has also established the foundations for the creation of an EU illegal vessel black list. Vessels that feature in this list are not able to access European ports for commercial purposes.

The fact that combatting IUU fishing is considered a priority in European policy is also exemplified by the recent publication of the Commission’s External Action Service ‘s Security Strategy for the Gulf of Guinea.[6] IUU fishing has been integrated in this document as a priority due to its impact on food security as well as its links with transnational organised crime.[7]

This is a policy trend with international echoes. It is unlikely to be coincidental that the African Union’s new strategy has this year been expanded to include IUU fishing. Further, in the United States, President Obama has recently announced the creation of a comprehensive framework to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud.[8]

There have also been international developments, with the UN Fisheries Committee (COFI) formally endorsing the Guidelines for Flag State Performance. This voluntary instrument sets out a common minimum due diligence standard for combatting IUU fishing. COFI has also assessed the ratification status of the Port State Measures Agreement, an agreement widely hailed as a vital legislative tool to prevent illegally obtained seafood from entering the ports of signatory nations.

IUU fishing is a global problem that requires the collective, sustained effort of governments as well as industry and civil society. Despite the challenges, the above policy developments demonstrate that there is a deepening understanding of IUU fishing and a growing will to address it.

[1] The IUU strategy of the European Union is set out in the DG Mare website. For more information, please see http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/maritime_affairs_and_fisheries/fisheries_resources_and_environment/l66052_en.htm

[2] See, for example, the Madagascar food security study carried out by Le Manach et al in 2012 concerning unreported fishing and stock decline.
[3]https://www.europol.europa.eu/sites/default/files/publications/4aenvironmental_crime_threatassessment_2013_-_public_version.pdf
[4] http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/illegal_fishing/index_en.htm
[5] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-1215_en.htm
[6] http://eeas.europa.eu/statements/docs/2014/140317_01_en.pdf
[7] https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/2011/issue-paper-transnational-organized-crime-in-the-fishing-industry.html
[8] Full press release: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/17/presidential-memorandum-comprehensive-framework-combat-illegal-unreporte

Illegal Fishing and Maritime Security

Why IUU Fishing is a Security Concern

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has singled out illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as one of the main factors contributing to fishery depletion and a key obstacle to achieving sustainability. IUU fishing and overfishing have already affected the food security of vulnerable populations on land (see, for example, the Madagascar food security study carried out by Le Manach et al in 2012 concerning unreported fishing and stock decline, or the work of EJF in Sierra Leone).

Photo Credit: Richard White, Lindblad Expeditions

At a time when fish has a growing importance in feeding the world (FAO, 2014) and against a backdrop of a rapidly increasing human population, the environmental impacts of IUU fishing and legal overfishing are a food security time bomb. In addition, pollution and climate change may also be undermining the ocean’s ability to produce food.

In addition to human security concerns, industrial scale IUU fishing is frequently linked to instances of maritime crime.  Tax evasion, corruption and document forgery can form an integral part of IUU fishing operations. Further, transnational organised crime such as human trafficking can be facilitated by the lack of coordinated surveillance under which fishing vessels routinely operate (UNODC, 2011).

IUU fishing may feed off land insecurity issues that have the effect of impoverishing communities to the point of forcing displacement. Uprooted individuals are routinely trafficked into forced labour, slavery and torture on board of fishing vessels (for real life slavery examples see the case of the Samudera Pasific 8 and the Merkat Bejala here).

UNODC experts have also found substantial evidence of extensive utilisation of fishing vessels for drug trafficking. Research suggest that significant volumes of cocaine and heroin have been seized by coast guards, police and port authorities in Africa, South America and Europe that were being trafficked on board of fishing vessels. Traffickers operated successfully whilst performing fake as well as real fishing voyages (see, for example http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/06/11/costa-rican-coast-guard-seizes-historic-4-1-metric-tons-of-cocaine).

Illicit activities carried out by fishing vessels at sea are frequently “invisible”. Fishing vessels are exempt from the requirement of having AIS satellite trackers on board and many are not required to have working transponders (Vessel Monitoring Systems, or VMS) on board either.

Crime can be difficult to detect at sea.

Crime is difficult to detect at sea.

The result is that fishing vessel operations at sea are seldom detectable by flag and coastal States. It is not uncommon for fisheries authorities to be unaware of transhipments carried out by the distant water fishing vessels they are responsible for overseeing (i.e. those on their registers or, in the case of coastal States, operating in their waters).

Although knowingly invisible, those who operate IUU fishing vessels seldom work blindly. As the annexed Interpol notice shows, some IUU vessels feature high masts fitted with radars so that the master can be aware of other vessels present in the vicinity.

In addition, unlike merchant ships, most fishing vessels can currently operate without a permanent International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number that can identify them when they change name, flag or owner. Although the IMO has recently removed the identification number fishing vessel exemption, States have generally continued to permit their fishing fleets to operate without it. Changing a fishing vessel’s name (or even its appearance) is easy, straightforward and is a common practice of operators that seek to circumvent their legal obligations.

IUU fishing is symptomatic of underlying insecurity factors. Examples include a lack of distributive justice in resource access opportunities (Molenaar, 2011), inadequate and/or fragile legal and institutional frameworks, an absence of integrated monitoring, control and surveillance mechanisms and the degradation of the observance of the rule of law in maritime spaces (Gallic, 2008).

Whilst the participation of coast guards and navies is key, IUU fishing cannot be addressed solely by tackling individual vessels and their crews. Successful policies must ensure that national laws empower government agencies so that perpetrators and the financial and institutional powers behind them can be dealt with appropriately.

Difficult issues such as the lack of accountability of flag States and the prevalence of toxic economic drivers must be confronted on an international scale (for more information concerning the need for accountability in ocean governance, see the work of the Global Ocean Commission here).

References:

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations). (2014). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.

EJF (Environmental Justice Foundation). (2013). Keeping Illegal Fish out of Europe: Ensuring Success for the IUU Regulation.

Le Gallic, B. (2008). The use of trade measures against illicit fishing: Economic and legal considerations. Ecological Economics, 64(4), 858-866.

Le Manach, F., Gough, C., Harris, A., Humber, F., Harper, S., & Zeller, D. (2012). Unreported fishing, hungry people and political turmoil: the recipe for a food security crisis in Madagascar?. Marine Policy, 36(1), 218-225.

Molenaar, E. J. (2011). Non-participation in the Fish Stocks Agreement: status and reasons. The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law, 26(2), 195-234.

UNODC. (2011). Transnational Organized Crime in the Fishing Industry. United Nations, Vienna, 2011.

 

What is IUU Fishing?

Post published by the House of Ocean on the 24th June 2014 on http://iuufishing.ideasoneurope.eu 

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major global fisheries problem. It has undesirable effects on fish stock survival, the marine environment and on human populations. 

Illegal Trawling in the Canary Islands (Google Earth)

Illegal Trawling in the Canary Islands (Google Earth)

IUU fishing results from the failure of States to monitor the fishing activity of their vessels and to enforce laws and regulations. Because of its furtive nature, IUU fishing undermines measures to manage fisheries sustainably, directly affecting law-abiding fisheries actors that compete for the same stock whilst bearing more of the regulatory and financial burden.

A cause of food and work insecurity in vulnerable coastal nations, IUU fishing also distorts competition as fishing operators who avoid compliance with laws and regulations gain competitive advantage. It reduces fishing opportunities for law-abiding operators, putting lawful fisheries at risk.

IUU fishing has been linked to crime at sea, including the trafficking of human beings, protected wildlife, weapons and drugs.

Typical IUU fishing behaviours include fishing without a valid licence, not recording or communicating catch data, fishing in restricted areas, targeting unauthorised species, using banned gear, falsifying or concealing the vessel’s identity or itinerary, obstructing the work of inspectors or enforcers, targeting undersized fish, engaging in unauthorised transhipments, participating in fishing or fisheries support activities with vessels in an IUU black list or  operating in breach of the conservation and management measures of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

The European Commission has judged the situation to be sufficiently serious as to put in place systems whereby States that do not put measures in place to address IUU fishing are identified. The European Union has now formally warned Vanuatu, Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, Korea, Ghana, Curacao, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. Upon the Commission’s recommendation, The European Council took the decision earlier this year to ban seafood imports from Guinea, Belize and Cambodia, who are considered by the EU to be condoning IUU fishing.

The furtive nature of IUU fishing means that its true scale is difficult to calculate, though a 2009 study by Agnew D.J. and others suggests annual costs of between US $ 10 and 23.5 Billion. Around one-fifth of global marine captures is thought to be illegal in origin.

 

Illegal Fishing & Slavery Feed our Shrimp

The horrific story of slavery, torture and murder in the Thai shrimp farming industry revealed by the Guardian this week is not new. NGOs had raised alarm bells earlier year and some supermarkets and importers were aware of issues concerning human trafficking and abusive labour conditions (see March EJF report here).

Yet, as horrified western consumers recoil at the images and descriptions depicting the brutal treatment of those who produce their shrimp, one unfortunate myth continues to linger when it comes to farmed shrimp: that being farmed, they must be sustainable.

Trash Fish. Photo Credit: Reuters

Trash Fish. Photo Credit: Reuters

Farmed produce such as the shrimp in the Guardian’s story may well be fed by illegal fish and be tainted by abuse, crime and environmental degradation (to learn more about the environmental impact of shrimp farming, click here).

The shrimp in the Guardian’s story are fed with wild-caught fish. Wild fish caught by beaten down, terrified slaves on board of filthy fishing vessels. Sometimes the small fish, frequently unattractive to humans and hence referred to as ‘trash fish’, are caught by bottom trawlers using nets with tiny mesh that can devastate the marine environment.

Some trash fish can also be caught alongside tuna, a prime export to Western markets. Whilst tuna captures are recorded for exportation to carefully regulated European markets, no such measures are in place for the small fish destined to be ground-up in order to make shrimp and cattle feed.

Unfortunately for those slaves, farmed seafood products are not subjected to the same importation controls in the European Union as commercial wild-caught fish.

This loophole means that illegal fishing can indirectly enter our markets undetected and continue to fund abuse and devastation.

For the full Guardian story, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/10/-sp-migrant-workers-new-life-enslaved-thai-fishing

The UN Global Record of Fishing Vessels

The Global Record is a UN FAO project that involves a database of fishing vessels containing cross-checked, up to date vessel data provided by the vessel’s relevant authorities.

The FAO is currently developing the system and implementing it in parts. The FAO has been working with the European Commission in order to find a way to standardise the data in order to merge information from many different jurisdictions.

A unique number makes vessels easier to identify. Photo Credit: worldoceanreview.com

A unique number makes vessels easier to identify. Photo Credit: worldoceanreview.com

The Global Record will use a unique vessel identification number assigned to each vessel. This number does not change irrespective of how many times the vessel is sold or is re-flagged or re-named.

It is likely that the IMO numbering system will be used as a number assignment system, as it has been found to be highly compatible with the purposes of the Global Record in respect of vessels of 100 GT and above.

The IMO number is currently applied on a voluntary basis to vessels over 100 GT, and it is the prerogative of flag States to make this mandatory.

The unique identification number is useful not only as a way to track and identify vessels that may be engaged in illegal fishing operations, but also as a tool for traceability purposes.

Draft text of the latest discussion at the UN Committee on Fisheries in Rome now available via www.fao.org/cofi/24783-0f7ee5151e17e118b5384107032289df5.pdf

Ghana responds to new EU warning over illegal fishing

The European Commission has warned Ghana that a single additional case of illegal, unreported & unregulated (IUU) fishing could bring about the closure of the entire EU market to Ghanaian fish exports.

Mr Bayon Bilijo, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, has held a press conference to update stakeholders on his government’s developments to tackle IUU fishing in response to this warning, which was issued during EU-Ghana talks in May.

According to the Minister, Ghana has adopted a plan of action to control illegal fishing and to better manage its fisheries resources. The country’s legislative framework has been reinforced and new fisheries regulations will be promulgated later this year. Mr Bilijo has also reassured interested parties that all Ghanaian tuna vessel have now been fitted with tracking systems (VMS) as required of all EU trading partners.

However, despite the Commission’s warning Ghana’s trawlers have not yet been fitted with VMS, though the Minister indicated that this will be addressed over coming weeks.

Tuna imports from Ghana could be banned by the EU (photo credit: The Grocer)

Tuna imports from Ghana could be banned by the EU (photo credit: The Grocer)

The Ghanaian economy relies heavily on seafood processing and exportation to the EU and a ban could have deep repercussions in terms of revenue and employment losses. A local export firm, Myroc Food Processing (MFP), announced losses of $ 5 Million following the Commission’s formal warning (or ‘yellow card’) to Ghana in November 2013. MFP reportedly has had to reduce its workforce and export volumes substantially despite the fact that no ban is yet in place.

The European Commission’s decision to issue the yellow card was taken following significant IUU fishing concerns. These included notifications by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) regarding undisclosed cargo transfers (transhipments) between vessels flagged to Ghana in breach of ICCAT rules. To see the full text of the Commission’s decision, click here.

In April 2013, large amounts of processed tuna from Ghana were rejected upon arrival at port by Spain and other European countries. In the UK, the importation of numerous consignments of processed tuna from Ghana was suspended. Containers were kept in port incurring substantial quay rent whilst lengthy investigations into the IUU fishing allegations took place.

A ban on Ghanaian seafood could impact UK importers significantly, since the reported annual value of tuna imports from Ghana is in the region of £27 Million.

It is not yet known whether a possible ban would affect Ghanaian fisheries exports to other countries. It has been recently reported that Ghana and Seychelles have entered an agreement to bolster each other’s tuna exports to the EU, as both countries’ tuna seasons peak at different times of the year. An EU market ban may endanger commercial arrangements such as this one, given the strict origin and re-export rules adopted by the EU with the implementation of Regulation 1005/2008 (the IUU Regulation) in January 2010.

Sources:

http://www.seychellesnewsagency.com/articles/532/Ghana+and+Seychelles+to+top-up+each+others+tuna+exports

http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2013/09/10/ghanaian-tuna-exporter-loses-5m-due-to-eu-trade-snags/

http://allafrica.com/stories/201406050752.html

http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/fmcg/fresh/tuna-imports-held-following-warnings-of-illegal-fishing/238499.article

Europe and illegal fishing: Ghana responds to the threat of market closure

Ghana has been in the news following its designation by the European Union as a possible candidate for its “List of Non-Cooperating Third Countries” (the infamous list of countries who fail to tackle illegal fishing carried out by their fleets).

Along with South Korea and Curacao, Ghana was firmly shown a yellow card by the European Commission in November last year after it emerged that it had failed to identify and prevent infractions of ICCAT conservation and management measures established carried out by its tuna fleet. For the uninitiated, ICCAT is the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, and it governs the fishery of tuna and other highly migratory species in an important region of the Atlantic.

The European Commission has already cracked down on countries it believes to be lenient on illegal fishing (Belize, Cambodia and Guinea). The effect of this has been that the three countries, now classed as “Non-Cooperating”, have lost their ability to export their fish to the EU until they can demonstrate that they have cleaned up their act. Further, European fleets are no longer working in the three EEZs and the three countries have lost the corresponding licence revenues.

A red card from the European Commission could have dire consequences for Ghana. It relies heavily on European markets and European investment for the production and processing of fish and, in a country where 10% of the population relies on fisheries for work the damage could be profound.

But the West African country has reacted: it has produced a fisheries management plan and has just announced that it will be joining a 5 year programme, funded by GEF, to improve monitoring, control and compliance of its tuna fleets. The programme, endorsed by WWF, involves rolling out technology that will enable to better estimate tuna catches.

Meanwhile, in has also received public support from Japan. The Japanese government has made it clear that it will partner Ghana and will contribute towards its development, possibly hinting at the fact that, should the EU withdraw its commercial partnerships with Ghanaian fisheries, other powerful fishing nations will be prepared to fill the gap.

Original Articles:

http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/business/artikel.php?ID=309095

http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2014/05/13/ghana-teams-up-with-wwf-issf-fao-in-illegal-fishing-fight/