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Commercial Fishing



On IUU in General – Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in general and in Cameroon

What is IUU fishing?

IUU stands for illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing.

The European IUU legislation applies to all fishing vessels, under any flag, in all maritime waters.

A fishing vessel is notably presumed to be engaged in IUU fishing activities, if it is shown to carry out activities in contravention with the conservation and management measures applicable in the area concerned. This includes, inter alia, fishing without a valid licence, in a closed area, beyond a closed depth or during a closed season, or by using prohibited gear, as well as the failure to fulfil reporting obligations, falsifying its identity, or obstructing the work of inspectors.

Why is the Commission committed to solving the problems of IUU fishing? 

IUU fishing is one of the most serious threats to the sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources, jeopardising the very foundation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the EU’s international efforts to promote better ocean governance. IUU fishing also represents a major hazard to the marine environment, the sustainability of fish stocks and marine biodiversity. IUU furthermore results in unfair competition for those fishermen and women who abide by the rules.

The Commission, in line with the European Green Deal objectives, committed in the Biodiversity Strategy 2030 to strengthen the protection of marine ecosystems and to restore them to achieve “good environmental status”.

What is the policy of the EU to fight illegal fishing? 

The EU is the world’s largest import market for fisheries product and bears a responsibility as market State to ensure that products stemming from IUU fishing activities do not access the EU single market.

The EU Regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU Regulation) entered into force on 1 January 2010. It applies to all landings and transhipments of EU and third-country fishing vessels in EU ports, and all trade of marine fishery products to and from the EU. It aims to make sure that no illegally caught fisheries products end up on the EU market.

To achieve this, the Regulation requires flag States to certify the origin and legality of the fish, thereby ensuring the full traceability of all marine fishery products traded from and into the EU. The system thus ensures that countries comply with their own conservation and management rules as well as with internationally agreed rules.

How does the EU ensure that third countries exporting their fishery products to the EU comply with their international obligations?

So far, 93 third countries have notified the Commission that they have in place the necessary legal instruments, the dedicated procedures, and the appropriate administrative structures for the certification of the catches by vessels flying their flag.

The Commission cooperates with a number of third countries and carries out evaluation missions to assess their compliance with the international obligations in the fight against illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing. Moreover, the Commission establishes IUU dialogues with third countries in view of supporting them in strengthening national policies to eliminate IUU fishing. Since November 2012, the Commission has been in dialogues with more than 60 countries, which have been warned of the need to take strong action to fight IUU fishing. In most cases, significant progress was observed and therefore the Commission could satisfactorily close the formal dialogue phase and lift the yellow card. Only a few countries have not shown the necessary commitment to reforms until now.

The Commission puts emphasis on cooperation to solve problems but there are third countries where the situation is still problematic even after years of informal cooperation. In those cases, the Commission can resort to the different actions established by in EU IUU Regulation vis-a-vis non-cooperating third countries in fighting IUU fishing.

Concretely, when the Commission has evidence that a third country does not cooperate fully in the fight against IUU fishing, it will issue a yellow card. With this first step of the process, called pre-identification, the EC warns the country of the risk of being identified as a non-cooperating country. The yellow card starts a formal dialogue in which the Commission and thecountry work together to solve all issues of concern. In most cases, this dialogue is productive and the pre-identification can be removed (green card).

If however, progress is not sufficient, the Commission will identify the third country as non-cooperating. This is called a “red card”. The Commission will then propose to the Council to add this country to the list of non-cooperating countries. Fisheries products from the country in question will hereafter be banned from the EU market.

At every step of the process (yellow/red card or listing), the third country can prove that the situation has been rectified. It will then be delisted (green card).

An overview of the process can be found in this infographic.

Which countries have so far received a yellow or red card?

Out of the 27 procedures that have started since 2012, six have resulted in a red card. Only three countries have failed to take sufficient measures to lift the yellow or red card. These countries are Cambodia, Comoros and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

A full overview of all past and ongoing procedures can be found here.

On IUU fishing and Cameroon

Why has the Commission decided to warn (yellow card) Cameroon that they risk being identified as a non-cooperating third country in the fight against IUU fishing?

The Commission’s decision to issue a yellow card to Cameroon is based on the identification of serious shortcomings in the mechanisms that the country has put in place to ensure compliance with its international obligations as flag, port and market State.

These shortcomings have been outlined and communicated to the competent authorities in Cameroon, and can be summarised as follows:

  • The registration procedure does not seem to include the verification of the history of the vessels, as IUU listed fishing vessels have been registered in Cameroon and entitled to fly its flag.
  • Cameroon has also registered many fishing vessels under its flag in the past months (including IUU listed vessels), which raises serious concerns on the ability of Cameroon to efficiently control and monitor the activities of its fleet, particularly its segment operating outside waters of Cameroon and those that have already engaged in illegal fishing activities.
  • According to available information, the legal framework seems outdated and does not contain the necessary provisions to ensure an appropriate control of fishing vessels flying the flag of Cameroon in accordance with international obligations.
  • Cameroon has not demonstrated sufficient willingness to cooperate with the Commission in fighting IUU fishing.

What happens if Cameroon does not improve their situation?

Informal exchanges with Cameroon have been ongoing since 2019 and insufficient progress and cooperation has led to today’s pre-identification. The Commission will evaluate progress in addressing the identified shortcomings within the next 6 months.

The Commission hopes that the identified shortcomings can be successfully addressed through dialogue and cooperation. However, if the country does not fulfil its duties under international law and fails to take remedial actions, the Commission may consider proceeding to its identification (red card) and listing, entailing measures foreseen under the IUU Regulation.