The EU has been cracking down on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing with the threat of import restriction – and has already blocked imports from Cambodia, Guinea and Sri Lanka.
Thailand received a ‘yellow card’ warning from the European Commission (EC) in April 2015 due to its inadequate framework to fight illegal fishing, and poor monitoring, control and traceability systems.
The yellow card procedure will be maintained until an EC team visits the country later this month, and a decision is made by the end of the year. The Commission confirmed that it has set a decision deadline of December 2015, at which point it will be confirmed whether the yellow card will either be lifted or maintained, or a red card issued.
The yellow card resulted in fishermen in Thailand – which is the world’s third biggest seafood producer – going on strike, against what they said were unfair government measures to stop illegal fishing.
This last week, Thailand's Minister of Agriculture, Chatchai Sarikalya, called the EU's yellow card a catalyst for reforming the country's fisheries policy – adding that the Thai government was fully committed to meeting international obligations on combatting illegal fishing, protecting human rights, and stopping trafficking.
Yellow card system
The Commission makes use of the yellow card system as a warning procedure against third countries that their fisheries products may lose access to the EU market.
If countries don’t improve their standards, they risked being issued "red cards" and effectively banned from exporting fisheries products to the EU.
So far, Sri Lanka, Guinea and Cambodia have been issued red cards, while the latest update from the EC shows that Ghana and Papua New Guinea, who are considered to have reformed their fisheries governance system, have been de-listed.
The yellow card procedure, which is a process of consultations, is maintained with Curaçao, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Thailand, which is the largest country in the group.
Meanwhile, new yellow cards have been issued to Comoros and Taiwan on Thursday.
“Both Ghana and Papua New Guinea have taken ownership of their fisheries reforms and now have robust legal and policy frameworks in place to fight IUU fishing activities,” said Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. “I am calling on the authorities of the Comoros and Taiwan to follow their example and join the European Union in promoting legal and sustainable fisheries worldwide.”
Ghana and Papua New Guinea join the growing list of countries (Korea, the Philippines, Fiji, Belize, Panama, Togo and Vanuatu) that have reformed their systems, following a warning by the EU.