Sunday, November 2, 2014


Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

By December, the European Union will decide on the status of the Philippines as a noncooperating third party in its campaign against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF). Last June, the Philippines received a “yellow card” from the European Union; the sanction was only a warning and did not entail trade measures. The formalization of this dialogue process served to strengthen the cooperation between the European Commission and the Philippines to address all problems within a logical time frame of six months.

Why is the European Union concerned about Philippine fisheries? It has a lot to do with the depletion of the world’s fish stocks. Globally, the demand for seafood is increasing, pushing the industry to resort to unsustainable, and sometimes illegal, fishing practices in order to provide consumers with fish to eat and enjoy.

Sadly, the Philippines’ seas are experiencing an unprecedented crisis: Ten of 13 fishing grounds have collapsed or are severely depleted. Despite this alarming news, Philippine fisheries continue to operate in a “business as usual” manner. Huge profits accrue only to the corporate few, much to the disadvantage of small-scale fisherfolk who cannot compete with commercial fishing vessels that encroach on municipal waters and where IUUF is rampant. Just one big commercial fishing vessel is enough to rob 65 small boats of their daily catch, the only means of livelihood for at least 1.2 million fishers nationwide.

The reasons for an EU action on IUUF are threefold: First, international consolidated tools are not enough. Second, IUUF has environmental and socioeconomic impacts on fish stocks, developing countries and legitimate trade. Third, the European Union is the largest importer of fishery products and is thus essential to ensure traceability in the whole chain—from net to plate—of all fishery products traded with it. To date, five countries have been issued yellow cards: the Philippines, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Curacao and Ghana. Three countries were issued red cards (which involve the imposition of trade sanctions): Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Guinea.

In a forum held at the Philippine Council of Agriculture Fisheries (PCAF), an EU representative mentioned six main issues that the Philippines would have to address concerning IUUF. These are: deficient traceability schemes; absence of a comprehensive catch certificate scheme; lack of compliance regarding flag state responsibility over the long-distance fleet operating in Papua New Guinea waters and the areas of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas; a legal framework not addressing IUUF activities, and without a deterrent sanction system; lack of sufficient administrative capacities to ensure control and enforcement; and lack of compliance with international law and Regional Fisheries Management Organization rules.

The chair of the PCAF Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, Arsenio Tanchuling, stressed the urgency to prioritize these six major deficiencies through the mechanisms that will operationalize the National Plan of Action on IUUF. Private-sector members of the committee and representatives of concerned civil society organizations, including Greenpeace, pledged support to assist the government in addressing the issues identified.

One of the commitments made by the Philippine government to address IUUF is to amend the Fisheries Code of 1998. In fact, the government tried its best to keep this yellow-card issue at bay, so much so that it conducted selected consultations to amend the Fisheries Code. To beat the EU deadline, the Philippines has been cramming to submit the amendments haphazardly.

It took no less than President Benigno Aquino III, who visited Europe last September, to assure the European Union that the Philippines is doing its best to comply with the issues on IUUF.

Unfortunately, “unlimited fishing” in Philippine waters by municipal fishing boats and commercial fishing fleets in high seas continues unabated. The small-scale fisherfolk—arguably the biggest stakeholders—are clueless about the government’s plan to address IUUF. Worse, they were not even consulted during the latter stages of the Fisheries Code amendment process.

Before the European Union’s yellow-card sanction, these fishers had to constantly remind and plead with the government to be more proactive to stop illegal fishing in their municipal waters. No government agency seemed to listen to the cares and concerns of the already marginalized fisherfolk.

Now, the Philippine government is on its toes as the European Union threatens to take away the lucrative businesses of the big commercial vessels that export fish to it. They certainly do not want to end up like Sri Lanka, which is now experiencing massive economic disruptions and further hardships in its fisheries sector.

It would take a concerted effort from the entire fisheries sector—from local fisherfolk to seafood consumers—to ensure that efforts on IUUF are not resolved along the margins of diplomatic tradeoffs only to benefit the “bigger fish.” As to whether the Philippines can expect a red, yellow, or green card from the European Union by Christmas time, your guess is as good as mine.

Ephraim Patrick Batungbacal is the Regional Oceans research coordinator for Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Philippines to amend fishing law to prevent EU fish ban

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online

Manila (dpa) - The Philippine Senate approved a bill Monday to strengthen laws against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, to prevent the European Union from blacklisting its products.

The amendment to the Fisheries Act will impose stiffer fines and more administrative penalties.

"This amendment is needed to save our tuna industry from sanctions from the EU," Senate President Franklin Drilon told reporters.

"We have been marked as one country which have prevalent illegal fishing and unreported and unregistered fishing vessels, so we have passed the amendments to address the concerns of the European Union, and prevent sanctions on our tuna industry which can cost jobs, especially in General Santos City," he added.

General Santos City in southern Philippines is the tuna capital of the country.

In its 2012 audit report on the Philippines, the EU said that the country‘s present laws and regulations did not have enough sanctions and disincentives against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Drilon said EU had issued a warning which may result in the blacklisting of all Philippine marine and fisheries products in the EU. He said Philippines has to enact the law by the end of the year to address the warning.

A ban would harm the fishing industry and economic growth, he said.

Fishing was responsible for 2.1 per cent of the gross domestic product, according to a 2012 study from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

In June, the House of Representatives already passed its own amendments to the fisheries law. A bicameral committee of house and Senate is due to finalize the law soon.

EU gives Philippines ‘yellow card’ for not stopping illegal fishing

June 11, 2014 6:17 pm

The European Union on Wednesday said it is issuing a “yellow card” to the Philippines for not “doing enough to fight illegal fishing” in its waters.
A yellow card is a warning issued to a football player.
“This is not a black list, but a yellow card. We want the Philippines as partners to combat illegal fishing. We want the country to improve its legal and control systems as required by international rules,” European Commissioner in charge of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said in a statement.
Damanaki said the EU would want to signal to the world that it will not tolerate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing — a criminal activity which undermines the livelihood of fishing communities and depletes fish stocks.
“It must be eradicated by all means,” she said.
The commission also said the Philippines has not so far fulfilled its duties as flag, coastal, port or market states in line with international law, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.
Areas that are ripe for 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.”
In view of the serious threat posed by illegal fishing the EU has imposed trade measures against non-cooperative states, including banning that country from selling fisheries products to the EU.
The EU is offering technical assistance support to help the Philippines meet the requirements.
Because Philippine coastal communities rely on fisheries, the EU is keen to co-operate with the Philippines to help ensure the sustainability of their livelihood and global fisheries.
The fight against illegal fishing is part of the EU 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.
This decision, which was released on June 10, is based on the EU’s ‘IUU Regulation’, which went into force in 2010.
It allows access to the EU market only to fisheries products that have been certified as legal by the flag state or the exporting state concerned.
Given a similar warning in November 2012 were Panama, Togo, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Fiji, and Curaçao, Korea and Ghana.
Last March, trade measures were slapped by the council against Guinea, Cambodia and Belize.
The estimated global value of IUU fishing is approximately 10 billion euros per year.
Between 11 and 26 million tons of fish are caught illegally a year, which corresponds to at least 15 percent of world catch.
Fishery exports from the Philippines to the EU amounted to EUR 170 million in 2013, out of a total EUR 5.1 billion.

EU's fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing

10 June 2014 
by eub2 -- last modified 10 June 2014 

The European Commission continues its action to fight illegal fishing worldwide by warning the Philippines and Papua New Guinea that they risk being identified as countries it considers non-cooperative in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Why has the European Commission decided to warn the Philippines and Papua New Guinea of the risk of being identified as non-cooperative countries?

The Commission's decision to warn the Philippines and Papua New Guinea as to their risk of being identified as non-cooperating was taken after a thorough analysis of their national systems for implementing the provisions of the IUU regulation (EC) 1005/2008. The analysis took into account each country's deficiencies in the fight against IUU fishing and its level of development.

The reasons for this formal warning – 'yellow card' - have been clearly outlined and communicated to both countries with particular focus on their failings in respect of international obligations as flag, coastal, port and market State. The Commission will now enter into a more formal dialogue with these two countries so as to propose actions to be incorporated into a formal Action Plan to rectify the identified deficiencies.

In parallel, the Commission continues to work and cooperate with third countries to ensure correct implementation of international fisheries rules and to promote the fight against IUU fishing. The future developments will depend on the willingness of these countries to cooperate actively with the Commission and address shortcomings in the fight against IUU fishing.

In 2012, the Philippines were the 12th largest fish producer in the world (FAO figures). The average catches in the waters of Papa New Guinea amounted to 700,000 tons in 2012.

What happens if the third countries concerned do not improve their situation?

The European Commission sets a reasonable deadline for third counties to react and improve their fisheries control systems. Informal discussions began in late 2011/early 2012 with both countries. However, insufficient progress has led to this pre-identification which opens the path for a formal dialogue.

In this further stage the Commission proposes to include clear benchmarks and criteria into the action plan to demonstrate progress. The Commission will then evaluate each country's progress on an individual basis. The first progress evaluation is expected within 6 months after the publication of the Commission's Decision.

The Commission hopes that the issues can be solved through dialogue and cooperation with the third countries concerned. If, however, they do not fulfil their duties under international law and fail to improve the current situation, then the EU can proceed to trade measures. Listing as non-cooperating third country is done through a Council Decision.

What is happening with other cases under investigation?

Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu received formal warnings – 'yellow cards' - under the IUU Regulation in 2012, and Ghana, Curaçao and Korea in 2013. Most of these countries have cooperated constructively with the Commission making significant progress in their fisheries management systems in order to curb illegal fishing. They have developed new legislation and improved their monitoring, control and inspection systems.

In March 2014, upon proposal of the Commission the Council of Ministers adopted trade measures against Belize, Cambodia and Guinea for their lack of commitment to tackling the problem of illegal fishing. Fisheries products caught by vessels from these countries are banned from being imported into the EU.

What are the EU rules in place to fight illegal fishing?

The EU's IUU Regulation entered into force on 1 January 2010. The Regulation applies to all landings and transhipments of EU and third-country fishing vessels in EU ports, and all trade of wild 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 countries comply with their own conservation and management rules as well as with internationally agreed rules.

In addition to the certification scheme, the Regulation introduces an EU alert system to share information between custom authorities about suspected cases of illegal practices.

What has been achieved so far?

Since its entry into force in 2010, the IUU Regulation's reach and impact on the fight against IUU fishing has increased year-on-year.

The IUU Regulation has had far-reaching impacts, leading to:
  • investigations on presumed IUU vessels leading to the subsequent imposition of sanctions by flag states and coastal states concerned;
  • the refusal of imports into the EU;
  • the pre-identification and identification of non-cooperating countries;
  • the listing by the Council of non-cooperating countries;
  • the acceleration of international cooperation against IUU fishing in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and at bilateral level (USA, Japan);
  • the strengthening of the system of mutual assistance messages for the exchange of information on IUU activities;
  • the acceptance of the EU catch certification system by third countries;

So far, 90 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.

Since 2010, the Commission has investigated more than 200 cases involving vessels from 27 countries. As a direct consequence of these actions, sanctions against almost 50 vessels, amounting roughly to 8m EUR, have been imposed by the flag and coastal states concerned.

The Commission has focused its enforcement action on geographic areas, such as West Africa and the Western Pacific region, where IUU fishing activities are most widespread and have the heaviest toll on marine resource and local communities.

Does the EU cooperate with Member States to enhance control?

The IUU Regulation can only be effective if proper control applies both within the EU and in third country waters. In EU waters the obligations stem from the Control Regulation (1224/2009 EU).

In practice, more than 100 alert messages were sent to EU Member States' authorities to direct their controls, check situations of risk, and to request investigations on presumed IUU fishing activities and serious infringements. The Commission has also promoted more widely the exchange of information and cooperation between the competent authorities in EU Member States. As a consequence numerous imports have been rejected by EU Member States.

Regular cooperation with flag States' authorities, amongst others in the context of evaluation missions, have further contributed to improved traceability "from net to plate".

As a consequence, legislative and administrative reforms aiming at improving the catch certification of the fishery products and the monitoring of their fleet have been introduced in several third countries.

Figures on IUU fishing

The estimated global value of IUU fishing is approximately 10 billion euros per year. Between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally a year, which corresponds to at least 15% of world catches. 

Oceans, the new battleground
Publication Date : 06-06-2014

There is a reason Earth is called the “Blue Planet”—two-thirds of its surface is covered with life-giving water.

More than just providing food and sustenance, the seas and oceans create more than half of the oxygen we breathe.  Their rich biodiversity is a source of life-saving medicine. The seas and oceans also help regulate the global climate, and cushion the impacts of climate change. Coral reefs and mangroves protect coastal communities from tsunamis and storms.

Whatever we do has a direct impact on our oceans, and it is everyone’s responsibility to safeguard this resource from which we benefit greatly. We are reminded of it particularly at this time of the year, when we celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8. The continuing theme is “Together We Have the Power to Protect the Ocean”—quite appropriate for us in the Philippines.

The Philippines is an archipelago heavily reliant on the seas and oceans. In fact, 40 million Filipinos depend on the seas for food and livelihood.  Unfortunately for us, our seas and oceans have been pillaged and our marine resources mismanaged, especially by those in the seat of government.

Our marine ecosystem is under severe threat. Only less than 1 per cent of our coral reefs is in excellent condition.  Half of our seagrass meadows has been lost in the last 50 years, while 75 per cent of our mangrove cover has disappeared in the last 90 years. Plus, decades of illegal, unreported, unregulated and unsustainable fishing practices have taken their toll on our fisheries.

The oceans have become a fierce battleground for resources. Small fishers are losing the competition against commercial fishing vessels. The fish catch of one commercial vessel is equivalent to a combined catch of 65 small fishers.

In fact, back in 1986, the amount of fish taken from Philippine seas had already exceeded the allowable limits needed to sustain our fish supply.  Compared to the 1960s, only 10 per cent of the fish population remains.  Ten out of 13 fishing grounds in the country are overfished.  And our fishers are becoming an endangered sector as well.

There is also rampant poaching of corals, sharks and sea turtles. The killing and harvesting of these marine species are environmental crimes under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (or CITES), an international agreement among governments. Its aim is to ensure that the international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Poaching has a detrimental effect on biodiversity regardless of territorial boundaries; it further weakens the marine ecosystem. That is why the conservation of marine creatures is crucial to maintain the ecological balance. It is imperative that all stakeholders, especially governments, protect these endangered marine species.

Reversing the decline of the marine ecosystem is not easy, but it can be done with everyone’s full cooperation and active participation.

Recently, Greenpeace, along with other fisher groups, nongovernment and civil society organisations, and the academe sent a proposed “Roadmap to Recovery for Philippine Seas” to the Presidential Palace.

The roadmap includes key recommendations on how to help save the country’s marine ecosystem from further decline. In particular, it calls on the Philippine government to: harmonise existing laws and policies which are fragmented under different agencies and departments; establish a national network of marine protected areas that is based on the connectivity of ecosystems instead of political boundaries; stop the issuance of new fishing licenses; and abolish commercial exemptions and keep municipal waters exclusive to small-scale fishers.

Philippine Environment Undersecretary for Political Affairs Tom Villaren accepted the copy of the Roadmap during the celebration of National Fisherfolk Day in Mendiola, Manila.

He acknowledged that marine and fisheries concerns needed to be integrated in the food security program of the government.

The clock is ticking. The battle goes on. We can only hope that President Aquino and his agencies will consider the Roadmap and heed the call to save the oceans before we run out of marine resources and lose our fishers.

(Vince Cinches is the oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. He is pushing the “Roadmap to Recovery” to save the Philippine seas) 

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