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Removing a yellow card for Vietnam’s seafood: Ending violations of IUU fishing regulations in 2022

(VLR) The fact that the European Commission (EC) issued a “yellow card” warning to Vietnam’s seafood has caused bad effects to Vietnam’s seafood sector, lives of fishermen and the country’s reputation as well. Therefore, the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee, the Prime Minister and the Government have paid much attention in step -by-step guidance to remove the “yellow card” and avoid the risk of having “red card” - as Deputy Prime Minister Le Van Thanh emphasized.

The fact that the European Commission (EC) issued a “yellow card” warning to Vietnam’s seafood has caused bad effects to Vietnam’s seafood sector, lives of fishermen and the country’s reputation as well

Complicated happenings

Nearly 4 years ago, on October 23, 2017, the EC applied a yellow card on Vietnam’s seafood products exported to the EU market due to the fact Vietnam’s fishing vessels and fishermen violated regulations on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. At the same time, EC also raised 9 recommendations that Vietnam needs to implement to remove the yellow card.

The EU is considered the second largest seafood export market of Vietnam. EC’s yellow card for IUU fishing activities has caused many losses and consequences to Vietnam’s seafood sector, especially to fishermen’s export and exploitation activities… It also detrimental to the reputation of Vietnam’s seafood to other potential markets worldwide.

EC also highly appreciated and recognized Vietnam’s commitments, determination and efforts in implementing solutions against IUU fishing. EC believed Vietnam has made many progresses and been on the right track. At the same time, Vietnam’s good will and cooperation in providing and exchanging information in fighting against IUU fishing have been recorded as well.During the process of implementation, EC organized two inspections in Vietnam in May 2018 and in November 2019. Thereby, it decided to reduce to 4 groups of recommendations Vietnam need to implement in the coming time. From 2020 so far, due to the pandemic of COVID-19, EC has not been able to come to Vietnam for inspection. However, according to the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Phung Duc Tien, the results of implementing EC’s 4 groups of recommendations have been regularly reported and updated to EC.

However, EC said some of Vietnam’s enforcement works were still slow “there has not been a clear change: especially the situation of Vietnam fishing vessels violating fishing activities in foreign water. There has been a decrease, but it is not stable and it has had complicated happenings”. One of the reasons is the cooperation among ministries, sectors, departments and People’s Committees of 28 coastal provinces and cities in exchanging information, prevention and timely handling violation has not been very prompt.

Ending the situation of violating in 2022

Recently, at the online meeting of the National Steering Committee on IUU Fishing on July 13, 2021 with 28 coastal provinces and cities, Deputy PM Le Van Thanh once again affierm the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee, the Government and PM have had much attention in step-by-step guidance to remove the yellow card and to avoid the risk of having “red card”.

Ending violations of IUU fishing regulations in 2022

Vietnam has focused on building a legal system on fishery to meet requirements of integration, ensuring responsible and sustainable management and development of the fishery.

Prime Minister requested ministers, heads of ministerial-level agencies, State’s agencies, chairmen of the People’s Committees of 28 coastal provinces and cities to focus on directing functional agencies to implement strict coordination, information exchange, early detection and prevention, investigations and timely handling violations…

At the meetig, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Phung Duc Tien said the Ministry has organized over 10 working groups to have inspections at 28 coastal provinces and cities. Until June 30, 2021, installation work of VMS equipment with signals on the Fishing Vessel Monitoring System on fishing vessels with a length of 15 meters and over has been done for 26,915 vessels (equally to 87.45%); the number of fishing vessels that had prescribed mark is 85,620 vesses (equally 90.53%). The country currently has a total of 49 designated ports eligible for work of certification of seafood origin. Also according to Tien, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will make efforts to reduce 40% of the number of fishing vessels violating foreign waters and completely stop the situation in 2022.

Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Binh - Deputy Chief of the General Staff of VPA said the Ministry of Defense directed the force to accompany fishermen- as a fulcrum for people working on the sea. At peak periods, the Ministry mobilized up to 30 ships and UAVs to expand monitoring range. Lieutenant General Binh recommended to improve the institution and synchronous participation of law enforcement agencies in handling brokering and illegal fishing in foreign waters.

Previously, on June 24, 2021, PM issued the Directive no.17/CT-TTg on “inter-sectoral coordination among departments, ministries, sectors and People’s Committees of 28 coastal provinces and cities in information exchange and handling to prevent and to stop Vietnam’s fishing vessels violating IUU fishing in foreign waters”. Thereby, Prime Minister requested ministers, heads of ministerial-level agencies, State’s agencies, chairmen of the People’s Committees of 28 coastal provinces and cities to focus on directing functional agencies to implement strict coordination, information exchange, early detection and prevention, investigations and timely handling violations… PM assigned the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (the standing agency of the National Steering Committee on IUU) to take responsibility before the Prime Minister for fully and timely handling of received information.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Le Van Thanh, direction and determination of the Government, ministries, departments and localities is to gradually reduce the number of Vietnamese fishing vessels violating regulations on IUU fishing and put an end to the situation in 2022 to remove the EC’s yellow card and absolutely avoid violating foreign waters that may lead to having a red card issued. “There must be an appropriate legal corridor, and it is necessary to organize good law enforcement. If not strictly handled thoroughly, effects will be lost. This is the key point!” emphasized Thanh.

Tran Trinh Lam

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