March 17, 2017 — Disparities and weaknesses in import controls in key member states of the European Union mean illegally caught fish can still slip through the net and into EU supply chains, according to an analysis published today by the Environmental Justice Foundation, Oceana, The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF.
The analysis provides a comprehensive evaluation of countries’ progress in implementing import controls under the EU Regulation to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which came into force in 2010. This is the first published analysis of data reported by member states to the European Commission for the most recent two-year reporting period, 2014 to 2015. It reveals significant problems with the way a number of EU member states are executing controls of fish consignments. For example, authorities in some major importing countries still fail to apply robust checks even where consignments come from countries that have been warned by the EU for having inadequate measures in place to prevent and deter illegal fishing. In some cases, the procedures implemented by EU countries appear insufficient to comply with the minimum control obligations laid down in EU legislation.
The study calls for more harmonised and rigorous procedures, as well as the digitisation of catch certificate information within the EU by the end of 2017, to ensure unscrupulous operators do not attempt to move their catch through ports where weaker controls are in place. Imports entering the EU in shipping containers are identified as particularly challenging for enforcement authorities, with procedures for these not harmonised to a sufficiently rigorous standard to date.
The import controls are a cornerstone of the European Union’s 2010 Regulation to combat IUU fishing, which is seen as a world-leading piece of legislation in the global fight against illegal fishing. The analysis reinforces the findings of a recent case study published by the four NGOs revealing that the fraudulent use of paper catch certificates and lack of an EU-wide system for cross-checking import documents means illegal catch is still getting through.