After months of warnings by the Commission, the European Council has finally banned seafood imports from Belize, Guinea and Cambodia over fears that the three countries have disregarded obligations to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. EU member States will now have to implement the ban and European fleets will not be able to operate in the EEZs of the three blacklisted countries.
Several tuna vessels owned by EU suppliers MW Brands (part of the Thai Union Group) and Pevasa are flagged to Belize and, unless they are de-registered and issued with a new flag by a country able to trade with the EU, they will not be able to supply tuna to the UK or any other Member State.
This could pose significant problems for importers as they will need to renegotiate and/or to find new suppliers in an effort to maintain a steady supply of sought after tuna products.
The EU’s ban has followed months of warnings not just to the three blacklisted countries, but also to Panama, Vanuatu, Fiji, Sri Lanka and Togo. Having been seen as keen to cooperate, they have been given additional time to enact and implement credible measures against illegal fishing.
Critically, the European Commission has also issued warnings to South Korea, Curacao and Ghana with regard to IUU fishing controls over distant water fishing fleets. EU interests have invested heavily in the Ghanaian tuna processing industry and a ban on imports from Ghana could be extremely difficult for the trade.
European Council Regulation 1005/2008, the legal tool that has brought about the ban, incorporates key aspects of the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing and the Port States Measures Agreement (PSMA), an international convention hailed by many as a leading legal tool with great potential to address IUU fishing. Questions are being asked as to whether the United States, whose Senate has recently given the green light for the ratification of the PSMA, will be the next global market State to develop a comprehensive system of port and market filters similar to that in place in the EU (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ia/iuu/portstate_factsheet.pdf)
For importers and their insurers this highlights the need to be vigilant: discernment on illegal fishing is now more important than ever, as is insisting on supply chain transparency. Choosing only fish suppliers that can demonstrate compliance with European and International laws will help deflect supply chain instability, contribute to the sector’s resilience and promote fair play.