“Yellow card” warning motivates responsible, sustainable fishery. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The “yellow card” warning must be taken as motivation to transform the fishery sector into a responsible and sustainable industry, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong has said.

The European Commission (EC)’s issuance of a “yellow card” warning on Vietnamese seafood exports is also an opportunity for the country to change global perspectives about local fisheries, while also sustainably developing the sector and managing marine resources, the minister said.

He moved on to affirm how Vietnam is determined to fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing to have the warning lifted.

According to the minister, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has engaged in crafting the revised Law on Fisheries which puts the EC’s recommendations into concrete legislation. New sub-law documents related to fisheries have also been formulated with the support of experts from the EC to increase their feasibility.

In addition, Cuong has requested that coastal cities and provinces increase patrols, as well as tighten the inspection and monitoring of their waters to prevent any potential violations.

He also urged them to better disseminate regulations against IUU fishing at fishing harbours and to get tough on vessels that do not keep their satellite-positioning systems active all day and night.

Acting General Director of the Directorate of Fisheries Nguyen Ngoc Oai said the office has been striving to fast-track the installation of the satellite-positioning device Movimar for all offshore fishing vessels with lengths of 24m or more.

Vietnam is also committed to completing the installation by April 2019, he noted.

The MARD has signed an agreement with the Ministry of National Defence on how they will coordinate to control Vietnamese offshore fishing boats. It has also actively cooperated with relevant international organisations to prevent IUU fishing.

Thanks to such drastic efforts, Vietnam is about to end illegal fishing in foreign waters off the coast of other Asia-Pacific countries, while seeing remarkable progress in the inspection and control of offshore fishing ships, Oai added.

The Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang, where measures against IUU fishing are being piloted, has nine of its 15 districts along the coast. It has established a number of special teams to inspect fishing vessels, handle violations, and withdraw fishing permits if necessary.

Deputy Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Mai Anh Nhin proposed that the MARD soon release technical standards for the installation of the positioning devices on fishing boats, while asking for the Ministry of Public Security’s support in probing brokers involved in sending fishing vessels to encroach on foreign waters.

The EU is Vietnam’s second largest seafood importer, purchasing 350-400 million USD worth of local seafood annually, accounting for about 16-17 percent of the total seafood export revenue.

It imposed its “yellow card” ruling on Vietnam in October last year, after the country failed to demonstrate sufficient progress in the fight against IUU fishing worldwide. 

Since then, the country’s seafood exports have faced various challenges. According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), only those marine fishery products validated as passing legal requirements can access the EU market, with difficulties in verifying product origins causing a shortage of input materials for many domestic seafood producers.

Since the beginning of 2018, revenue from seafood exports to the EU market sank 20-30 percent year-on-year. Almost all Vietnamese seafood consignments have been subject to lengthy customs checks in European countries, meaning greater costs for exporters.

To address the problem of IUU fishing activities, the EC has been evaluating exporting countries since 2012. Those countries that fail to meet EC standards are issued a "yellow card" warning, followed by a "green card" if issues are resolved, or a "red card" if they are not. A red card can lead to a trade ban on fishery products.

According to EC requirements, the Vietnamese seafood sector had to implement nine recommendations, including revisions of the legal framework to ensure compliance with international and regional rules, applicable to the conservation and management of fisheries resources; ensuring the effective implementation and enforcement of the country’s revised laws; and strengthening the effective implementation of international rules and management measures.

The EC also wanted Vietnam to issue sanctions and increase the level of sanctions against IUU fishing, which should be written in the revised Law on Fisheries, and give concrete evidence proving Vietnam’s efforts in the fight against IUU fishing. –VNA