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Efforts pledged to remove EC’s “yellow card” on Vietnamese seafood

Enterprises and management agencies have committed to jointly undertake urgent activities to build a responsible and sustainable fishery sector, thus removing the European Commission’s (EC) “yellow card” warning on Vietnamese seafood over illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Vietnam is strengthening its efforts to remove EC’s “yellow card” warning on its seafood.
Vietnam is strengthening its efforts to remove EC’s “yellow card” warning on its seafood.

Seafood export affected

On October 23, 2017, the EC warned of a “yellow card” as Vietnam’s efforts had not been enough to combat IUU fishing.

According to seafood exporters, the problem concerning the IUU “yellow card” began to show a clear impact on seafood exports. Vietnamese exporters are trying to meet the EU requirements related to IUU regulations, but in the early stages, they may be cautious and awkward in carrying out the procedures, thus negatively influencing the export of aquatic products, especially for the collection of raw materials from various sources and ships.

In 2018, seafood exports have tended to decrease from 4-20%. Generally, in the first eight months this year, seafood exports decreased by 25%, only reaching US$252 million. Of which, squid, octopus and other seafood leveled off in the first half of this year and continued the downward trend. Exports of bivalve mollusks have continued to decrease by nearly 10%, with US$55 million.

According to Le Hang, Deputy Head of the Training and Trade Promotion Centre under the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), tuna exports to the EU have still maintained double digit growth so far this year. From January to August, tuna exports to the EU reached over US$102 million, up 26%, accounting for 24% of the total export turnover of tuna. However, exports to the US market have decreased continuously in 2018, down by 6% at US$139 million.

VASEP forecast that seafood exports to the EU will continue to decrease in the last months of 2018, affecting the overall seafood export turnover in general; estimated at US$3.2 billion, up 7% over the last year.

Nguyen Thi Thu Sac, Vice President of VASEP, pointed to lessons from other nations that have successfully removed a “yellow card” or “red card”, suggesting that Vietnamese enterprises and fishermen effectively implement the recommendations from the EC to remove the “yellow card”, through concentrating personnel and material resources for the implementation, while proposing that the Government continues providing material support for units to invest in machinery and equipment to prevent illegal fishing.

Tuna exports to the EU have maintained double digit growth so far this year.

Various urgent solutions

According to Hang, during the inspection from May 16 to 24, the EC delegation had a positive evaluation, especially recognising the determination and efforts of the Government, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and seafood enterprises against IUU fishing.

However, the EC also pointed out a number of shortcomings in the implementation of the urgent tasks and solutions against IUU, such as the lack of a mechanism to direct and manage smoothly from the central to local levels in order to ensure effective enforcement against the IUU and following EC regulations against IUU in practice.

Resources in both the personnel and material aspect have not been sufficiently allocated to ensure the effective implementation of international regulations related to IUU.

Law enforcement to ensure that Vietnamese fishing vessels do not conduct illegal fishing in inland waters is still limited. In addition, the certification of fishery products originating from fishing activities has not yet met the requirements of the EC on the traceability of illegal products exported to the European market.

At present, Vietnam has not been able to control the fishery catching declared on paper, so it is necessary to strengthen the control of fishing vessels at ports and at sea, while using vessel control data to ensure that the fishery products exported to the European market are traceable, ensuring the legality of the certified products.

According to experts, by January next year, the EC delegation will return to Vietnam to inspect and assess the results of the implementation of the EC recommendations on IUU fishing. Based on the assessment from the delegation, the EC will consider the removal of the “yellow card” warning on Vietnamese seafood.

Therefore, by the year end, it is important to concentrate on implementing several key tasks, including finalising a decree to guide the implementation of the Fisheries Law, a decree on sanctioning administrative violations in the fishery sector, and nine circulars to ensure the effectiveness of the revised Fisheries Law that comes into force from January 1, 2019.

In addition, it is necessary to set up a timely, smooth and effective steering and control mechanism from the central to local levels to prevent IUU and facilitate the implementation of the EC’s recommendations on the IUU issue.