EU efforts to fight illegal fishing worldwide continue as Brussels notified Ecuador Wednesday that it must step up its actions (yellow card) in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
"Ecuador is a major trade partner for fishery products," said Fosheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella: "We have a huge responsibility towards the EU consumers to make sure that the imports from this country only stem from legal fishing activities.
"The European Commission has detected shortcomings that hinder the capacity of Ecuador to provide this assurance," he said. "We invite the Ecuadorian authorities to step up their efforts and implement the necessary reforms to fight against IUU fishing."
The Commission decision is based on 'identified shortcomings' about the country's ability to comply with agreed standards under international law of the sea as flag, port and market state.
Ecuador is encouraged to step up its actions to ensure that fish entering its market do not stem from IUU fishing. In particular, the EU executive says it should develop an enforcement and sanctioning system to address IUU fishing activities. It adds that adequate control of the activity of processing plants - especially those exporting to the EU - is paramount. The Commission has also identified limitations in the fisheries legal framework.
As the decision does not entail any measures affecting trade, the yellow card is a warning and offers Ecuador the chance to react and take measures to rectify the situation within a reasonable time.
The mechanism to address IUU provides that in cases of continued non-compliance countries can ultimately face exclusion of their fish exports from the EU market (red card). The EU says it stands ready to continue working side by side with Ecuador, including through technical assistance where needed, to implement the necessary reforms.
The global value of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is estimated at 10-20 billion euros per year. Every year, between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish, i.e. at least 15% of world catches, are caught illegally. The EU is the world's biggest importer of fisheries products and cannot accept such products into its market.