By Keshia Hannam
December 22, 2017

Vietnam has been told to clean up its fishing industry to comply with the EU–who accused it of tolerating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing on a large scale–or risk a ban on fish exports.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, Vietnam’s seafood industry accounted for $8.3 billion worth of exports in 2017, making it one of the world’s largest, beside the U.S., China, and Norway. In October, the Financial Times reported that the EU gave the southeast Asian country a “yellow card” (under a system that ranks nations’ fishing practices and market access) and six months to improve the state of the industry. The EU threatened punitive trade measures if the communist-ruled country did not comply.

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Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said in a statement:

With this action today we demonstrate our firm commitment to fight illegal fishing globally. We cannot ignore the impact that illegal activities conducted by Vietnamese vessels are having on marine ecosystems in the Pacific. We invite the Vietnamese authorities to step up their fight so we can reverse this decision quickly. We are offering them our technical support.”

Other Asian countries have also been warned by the EU regarding fishing practices; Thailand and Taiwan currently have yellow cards, and Cambodia has a red card, temporarily blocking it from exporting fresh fish to the EU. Vietnam’s status will come under review in April 2018, though there have already been signs it is taking the issue seriously: in November, Hanoi passed a new law that will result in more inspections of fisheries and heftier fines of up to 1 billion Vietnamese dong ($44,000) for large violations.

“We are trying to make every effort to make sure the red card won’t happen,” Nguyen Hoai Nam, Vasep’s deputy general secretary, told the FT. “We are undertaking many activities to improve and follow the (EU’s) recommendations.”

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Since 2010 the EU has taken action against countries that fail to follow international standards which prevent over-fishing, like policing waters for unlicensed fishing vessels and imposing sanctions that ensure a compliance with rules against illegal fishing. Between 11 and 26 million tons of fish—or at least 15% of world catches—are taken illegally each year. As the the world’s biggest fish importer, the EU declared that it did not wish to be complicit, and accept such products into its market.

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