A Vietnam Coast Guard ship escorts a fishing boat back to shore in the central province of Quảng Ngãi. The Vietnam People's Navy and the Vietnam Coast Guard have been charged with the task of providing fishermen with support to minimise illegal fishing in foreign waters. - VNA Photo
HÀ NÔI - Việt Nam had taken concrete steps in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) based on the European Council's (EC) recommendations, said Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Phùng Đức Tiến.
A national committee was founded in May to co-ordinate efforts made by central agencies and local authorities to combat IUU.
Việt Nam’s 28 coastal towns and provinces have each established their own anti-IUU units to supervise and inspect fishing activities. Fishing boats coming in and out of seaports are being asked to file reports on their cargoes, origin of product and ships' logs.
The southern province of Kiên Giang is home to the highest number of boats and also accounts for a significant share of the country’s total fishing haul. Since an inspection by EC delegation into Kiên Giang’s fishing fleet last year, greater efforts have been made by local authorities to combat IUU.
Supervision at Tắc Cậu Port, the province’s busiest fish market that has welcomed more than 5,000 boats since the beginning of the year, has been a top priority for the provincial government. Even on busy days, every single fishing vessel is checked thoroughly.
Việt Nam has been working to improve its legal framework and install trackers on boats to monitor seafood product origin and enforce maritime law.
Tiến said the country’s 2017 Fisheries Law and a number of Government decisions and guidelines had allowed agencies and localities to combat IUU more effectively. Việt Nam’s boat tracking and seaport monitoring systems had been put to use for better surveillance of the flow of seafood products.
A major achievement in the fight against IUU, according to Việt Nam Directorate of Fisheries’ deputy head Nguyễn Quang Hùng, was greater awareness among central agencies to local authorities and Vietnamese fishermen and businesses. The number of IUU cases reported in the country has been on the decline in recent years.
However, there are still cases of Vietnamese boats fishing in foreign waters. Based on the EC’s recommendations, Việt Nam has set up communications channels with neighbouring countries to spot and handle IUU violations.
Hùng said Việt Nam had started to establish quotas within its territorial waters. The move aimed to better manage the country’s fishery resources and sustainable development.
Deputy Prime Minister Trịnh Đình Dũng said local leaders, who are the frontline in the fight against IUU fishing, must stay vigilant at all times. Dũng asked local leaders to consider plans to restructure the province’s fisheries sector by making a shift from catching to raising aquacultural products.
The EU Parliament’s Committee on International Trade Chairman Bernd Lange said there had been progress made on Việt Nam’s side to combat IUU fishing. The EU’s yellow card also had an impact on the ratification of EU-Việt Nam trade agreements such as the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the EU-Vietnam Protection Agreement (EVIPA).
A delegation from the EU’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries will conduct on-site surveys and working sessions with Vietnamese agencies from November 4-14 to evaluate the country’s efforts to fight IUU fishing.
The EC issued a yellow card to Việt Nam in October 2017, warning the country that the EU could ban its seafood products entirely unless effective measures were taken to halt illegal fishing. The commission has made a number of key recommendations for Việt Nam, which aim to strengthen the country's legal framework and capacity to monitor its vessels and to track product origin.
Việt Nam and the EC have been collaborating to resolve IUU fishing issues. In spite of some of the progress made, exports of Vietnamese seafood to the EU have been on the decline. As the country looks to increase seafood exports and develop the industry, removing the EC's yellow card remains a key task for the Government. — VNS