Illegal fishing tackled with drastic measures to remove 'yellow card'

February 07, 2023 - 08:02
The Government, ministries and local authorities have been improving legal enforcement, supervision on the implementation of the law and traceability requirements through heavier fines on illegal fishing.


Fishermen work on a boat from Bình Định Province. The fishery industry has made efforts in the prevention of IUU in Việt Nam. Photo courtesy of Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre 

ĐÀ NẴNG — The fishery industry in 28 coastal provinces has taken severe measures to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, with the goal of removing the 'yellow card' warning issued by the European Commission in 2017.

The Government, ministries and local authorities have been improving legal enforcement, supervision on the implementation of the law and traceability requirements through heavier fines on illegal fishing, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Phùng Đức Tiến said at a conference on the EC’s delegation assessment of anti-IUU fishing measures in Việt Nam.

Tiến said the ministry asked local authorities and fishery agencies to clarify the responsibilities of fishing boat management, reporting on the punishment of IUU-violated vessels and sharing information and data on fishing boat registration and catch among local authorities.

“It’s a big challenge for Việt Nam’s fishery. Stricter regulations and supervision on fishing have been implemented since the country’s fishery received the ‘yellow card’ from the EC in 2017, and the latest recommendations by the EC’s delegation last October,” Tiến said.

“The government, ministries and local authorities are determined to implement anti-IUU fishing measures to affirm Việt Nam as a ‘trust and responsibility’ partner. The positive involvement of communes, fishing communities, border guards and fishery surveillance units will help improve management more transparency and sustainably,” he said.

He noted that other major markets like Japan, the US and other countries would ask Việt Nam to ensure IUU fishing prevention in the near future.

The vice minister said a report on illegal swordfish trading was unveiled during the EC delegation's visit.

Vũ Duyên Hải, an official from the directorate of fisheries, said positive targets had been reached in efforts to remove the ‘yellow card’.

Fresh hauls are unloaded at Thọ Quang fishing port in Đà Nẵng. Fishery management and fishing boat tracking have been improved in preventing illegal fishing. VNS Photo Công Thành 

Hải said 11 out of 28 provinces now monitor fishing boats of more than 6m in length, while 28,739 out of 29,827 fishing vessels (96.35 per cent) have installed vessel monitoring systems (VMS).

The number of fishing boats on the National Fisheries Database (Vnfishbase) was identified at 74,521, down 14,024 boats since September, 2022, and 86.7 per cent of fishing vessels are officially registrated.  

However, six fishing boats, of which three were from Bình Định Province, were detained in Malaysia in January. Hải said five of them did not have the VMS installed.

Hải said 28 provinces must complete the installation of VMS and 24-hour tracking equipment on all fishing boats over-15m in length by May 15; boats of less than 15-m still require VMS at a later date. 

He urged all provinces to boost supervision and control on fishing boat numbers and wharves, as well as illegal transhipment at sea.

Deputy director of Scientific Technologies and International Co-operation Department under the Directorate of Fisheries Nguyễn Thị Trang Nhung warned that the difference in fishery management among provinces should be synchronised. At the same time, reports on fish traceability must be cleared.

The EC delegation warned about a possible fake Bill of Lading for swordfish exports to the US, not Taiwan as stated. 

Two vessels of Hải Vương Company docking at Hòn Rớ Port were found to be using fake registration certificates. The two boats were listed as IUU-violator by the International Ocean Tuna Commission in 2014.

The EC’s delegation also investigated a vessel that recorded an 800kg swordfish catch, suspecting that, in reality, it caught seven tonnes over a 25-day trip. 

She said more work is needed in fishery management, certificate, and reports on fish hauls. Local authorities should strictly implement boat tracking systems, legal enforcement forces, and State agencies to remove the ‘yellow card’.

Vice chairman of Quảng Ngãi Province’s People’s Committee, Trần Phước Hiền, said it should be managed with a one-stop-shop that all provinces send reports on fishing boat fleets and catch to the directorate of fishery each day.

Hiền said management ability and infrastructure must be improved for sustainable development.

Lê Ngọc Linh, head of the Quảng Bình sub-department of fishery, said all boats that disconnected their VMS hours must be investigated by local authorities, while communal authorities will give strict fines.

The EC’s delegation plans further checks on Việt Nam’s IUU prevention measures in 2023, Nhung said. — VNS