The European Union (EU) urged the Philippines to strengthen efforts to support the global fight against illegal fishing, warning illegal fishers it will not tolerate such criminal activity.
The EU has identified areas where it found the Philippines lacking in action to address deficiencies in monitoring, controlling and surveillance of fisheries, and suggested corrective actions to resolve them.
EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said the EU will “not tolerate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing—a criminal activity that undermines the livelihood of fishing communities and depletes fish stocks. It must be eradicated by all means.”
Damanaki she stressed the EU’s commitment to sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources at home and abroad.
IUU is harmful not only to EU fishermen but also to local communities in developing countries, the EU official said.
In light of the dependence of Philippine coastal communities on fisheries, the EU
appeared keen to cooperate with Filipinos to help ensure the sustainability of their livelihood and global fisheries.
The estimated global value of IUU fishing is approximately 10 billion euros [$13.5 billion
or P591.8 billion] per year. Between 11 million and 26 million tons of fish are caught illegally each year, which corresponds to at least 15 percent of total world catch.
Fishery exports from the Philippines to the EU amounted to 170 million euros in 2013 out of a total of 5.1 billion euros.
The EU has identified areas where the Philippines is not yet doing enough to fight illegal fishing. It identified certain shortcomings, such as lack of action to address deficiencies in monitoring, controlling and surveillance of fisheries, and suggested corrective actions to resolve them.
She said that the EU will not, at this stage, undertake any measures affecting trade.
“This is not a black list, but a yellow card. We want the Philippines as partner to combat illegal fishing. We want the country to improve its legal and control systems as required by international rules. But we also want to signal to the world that the fight against illegal fishing is part of the EU’s drive to ensure the sustainable use of the sea and its resources.
As the world’s biggest fish importer, the EU aims to close its markets to illegally caught fish,” she added.
The commission believes that the Philippines does not, so far, fulfill its duties as a flag, coastal, port or market state in line with international law such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.
It said areas that need improvement include the traceability system that should be able to ensure the legality of the fishery products exported to the EU, greater control on the long-distance fleet operating in Papua New Guinea waters, and the development of a solid legal framework with a deterrent system of sanctions.
The European Union has proposed an action plan to deal with the outstanding issues, she said. In view of the serious threat posed by illegal fishing, the EU is able to take certain trade measures against non-cooperative states, including a ban on that country selling fisheries products to the EU.
The commission’s action plan is the result of a thorough analysis and took into account the country’s level of development. It follows a long period of informal discussions that started in 2012, and also starts a formal procedure of dialogue and cooperation with the Philippines aimed at solving the shortcomings.
The EU is offering technical assistance support to help the Philippines meet the requirements.