Vietnam strives to avoid EU ‘red card’ over illegal fishing

07:15 | 03/04/2020 Trade

(VEN) - An upcoming European Union inspection of illegal fishing by Vietnamese vessels could result in a “red card” with adverse effects on the country’s seafood exports. A delegation of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG-Mare) is scheduled to visit Vietnam from May 25 to June 5, 2020 to inspect implementation of the EC recommendations on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. 

vietnam strives to avoid eu red card over illegal fishing
Vietnamese localities have been urged to resolve limitations in control of fishing vessels entering and leaving ports

Violation of non-Vietnamese water

Nguyen Quang Hung, Deputy Director of the General Department of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) said after two previous inspections, the EC’s inspection team acknowledged Vietnam’s efforts in curtailing IUU fishing. Among the measures Vietnam took was the completion of a legal framework for fishing activities (the Fisheries Law), installing fishing vessel monitoring systems based on the EC’s recommendations, and regulating fishing vessel activities through ports.

However, Vietnam’s efforts have not persuaded the EC to remove the “yellow card” it issued two and a-half years ago, which served as a warning and offered Vietnam the possibility to rectify the situation within a reasonable timeframe. However, Vietnamese vessels violated foreign waters 138 times in 2019, with 220 of them detained or turned around.

“The punishments for violation of foreign sea areas remain restricted and divergent among localities. This is an important factor for the EC’s decision of removing the yellow card or turning it into a red card in the coming inspection,” said Nguyen Quang Hung. Such a measure could include a trade ban on Vietnamese fishery products.

Timely prevention

A representative of the Directorate of Fisheries said that if the inspection team continues to find illegal fishing in its third inspection, there is a great risk that the “yellow card” will turn red. The consequences would be harsh given the significant decrease in Vietnam’s seafood exports to the European market with the current “yellow card” warning.

In order to avoid a “red card” and achieve a lifting of the “yellow card”, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong asked localities to prepare a working plan with the EC inspection team, sanction fishing vessels that violate IUU fishing regulations, especially violations by Vietnamese vessels in foreign waters. The localities were also urged to control fishing vessels entering and leaving ports, and monitor their fishing diaries and reports as well as product origin traceability when exporting to the European market.

Two years after the EU issued its “yellow card” for seafood products, Vietnam’s exports to this market fell by 6.5 percent. From being the second largest import market for Vietnam’s seafood, the EU has dropped to fifth place and its imports have decreased from 18 percent to 13 percent of Vietnam’s exports.

Nguyen Hanh