MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The European Union has lifted the Yellow Card it imposed on the Philippines for failing to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
In a statement released on Tuesday, April 21, the European Commission said it had also taken South Korea out of the list of countries with a Yellow Card.
A Yellow Card is one step before trade sanctions in which the EU will close its market to fish from a country.
“The European Commission acknowledges today that two fishing nations, Korea and the Philippines, have carried out appropriate reforms of their legal systems and are now equipped to tackle illegal fishing,” the statement read.
The Philippines welcomed the EU decision and said it would continue to implement reforms in the fishing industry.
“Rest assured: We will continue to implement reforms to avoid a similar situation in the future, and strengthen our fishing industry even further,” President Benigno Aquino III said in a statement early Thursday morning, April 23.
Aquino added: “We are determined to do so, knowing just how many of our countrymen depend on this for their livelihood.”
The lifting of the Yellow Card is a boon to the Philippine fisheries sector since the EU is the world’s biggest fish importer.
In 2013 alone, the Philippines exported P9.4 billion (165 million euros) worth of fish products to the EU, according to the BFAR.
The Yellow Card was slapped on the Philippines in June 2014. In February, the country was given more time to address the Commission’s concerns.
Philippine officials, specifically fisheries and foreign affairs officials, then began a series of discussions with their European counterparts on how to improve fisheries policies.
Since the Yellow Card, the Philippines has amended its 17-year-old Fisheries Code and begun talks on how to implement tougher penalties on violators.
The Commission noted that the Philippines “embarked on a series of reforms to upgrade their fisheries governance. Their legal systems are now aligned to international law.”
Through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Philippine government also began training more ocean guards, purchasing enforcement equipment such as boats, and is set to acquire vessel-monitoring equipment.
The BFAR also crafted a national plan of action against IUU fishing and has decided to freeze new fishing licenses for 3 years.
Environmental and fisheries groups are happy about the decision.
“We laud the BFAR and all players for this success, but we should not stop here. We have created the momentum to sustainably transform the country’s fisheries sector,” says World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) President and CEO Joel Palma.
Greenpeace, however, warned the government to ensure the new fisheries law will work in favor of small fisherfolk who, they say, are the issues “biggest stakeholders.” (READ: Small fisherfolk hit ‘rushed’ revision of fisheries law)
“Greenpeace challenges the Philippine government to strictly enforce the amended law and recommends that they continue to address and uphold the priority rights of our municipal fishermen whose livelihoods have been affected by decades of rampant illegal and destructive fishing,” said Vince Cinches, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner.
The warnings issued by the EU to fishing countries follow a 2010 commitment to close the union’s market to illegally caught fish.
In the same statement, the European Commission said it issued a Yellow Card to Thailand.
“The Commission has denounced the country’s shortcomings in its fisheries monitoring, control and sanctioning systems and concludes that Thailand is not doing enough,” the statement read.
The EU, the world’s biggest fish importer, aims to allow only legally-caught fisheries products to enter its market. It has declared import bans against Belize, Cambodia, Guinea, and Sri Lanka.
At least 15% of the world’s annual fish catch is caught illegally, according to the EU. – Rappler.com
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