Brussels, 10 June 2014
Fighting illegal fishing to preserve sustainability in the Western Pacific
Speaking in a press conference in Brussels today, EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki stated:
“Today the European Commission sends a stern warning. We hand two big fishing nations – the Philippines and Papua New Guinea – a yellow card: our thorough analysis highlights they are not acting sufficiently to fight illegal fishing. And any illegally caught fish is of great concern to me: it undermines the livelihood of fishing communities and depletes fish stocks.
These two countries are key players of the Western Pacific region, an ocean which is home to more than half of the world’s tunas. The Philippines are ranking as n° 12 in the list of world fishing nations – ahead of all EU Member States. PNG has the regions’ most fishy waters.
And half of the tunas caught in the Pacific end up on our plates here in Europe. So what is happening there is our business too. Sustainability of fisheries in the Pacific Ocean means sustainability here.
But sustainability remains a “paper tiger” if each segment of the fish supply chain is not taking full responsibility: from flag States to market States, from producers to importers, from inspectors to consumers.
Now, we have been talking to the Philippines and Papua New Guinea extensively for more than two years. We are convinced that these two countries exercise no real control on what goes on in their waters and on their ships. So that they cannot guarantee that their fish is caught respecting local and international rules.
And this is why the Commission steps forward today and shows them a yellow card. But this “warning” is not the end of the road. To the contrary, it means we will intensify and formalise our dialogue with both countries in the coming months. How do we do this ? We propose to each of them a tailored “action plan” to help them overcome their shortcomings.
We have used this method for eight other countries since 2012 and it is bearing fruit. We started our investigations “close by” so to say, in West Africa, where resources were being pillaged by pirate vessels and the livelihood of local fishing communities was at stake.
Today most of the nations which we warned are making progress. The nations who did not – Guinea, Belize, Cambodia – were banned from trading fish into the EU in March of this year. I urge the Philippines and Papua New Guinea to take action so that this second step will not be necessary.
Because, let me make one thing clear: my ultimate goal is not listing countries and impose trade bans. My goal is to use all the means we have to achieve sustainability in our EU waters – through our Common Fisheries Policy reform and our enforcement of control rules. Why? Because we import two thirds of the fish we eat in the EU.
I hope other nations will join us in tackling this plague of illegal fishing.”
To watch the press conference: