The delegation from the Directorate General for Maritime and Fisheries of the European Commission is scheduled to visit Korea on June 9 for an on-site evaluation mission on the country’s control system over South Korean-flagged distant water fleets.
The visit is expected to influence the European Union on determining whether to designate South Korea as a non-cooperating third country in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated, also known as IUU, fishing.
The European Union issued a Commission Decision giving Korea a “yellow card,” preliminarily identifying the country as a non-cooperating third country, last November. The European Union has been concerned that Seoul has not been proactive in bringing IUU fishing activities under control, and the country’s passive response to the issue could lead to the inflow of illegal fishing products into the European markets.
If South Korea gets IUU acknowledgement, its fish products will be banned from sales or distribution in EU member states, which have been upping efforts to prevent illegal fishing that is destroying the marine ecosystem and distorting the market.
The European Union and South Korea have engaged in close cooperation to eliminate IUU fishing through formal and informal correspondences, bilateral consultations and field inspections.
Korea has taken various actions, including amending its Distant Water Fisheries Development Act, taking into serious consideration the recommendations made by the European Union. Seoul also had all of the country’s distant water fishing vessels, totaled at 339, fitted with a functioning vessel monitoring system, or VMS, and in March opened the Fisheries Monitoring Center that incorporates the country’s advanced IT technology to monitor the activities of these vessels.
A vetted expert of the IMCS Network, a law enforcement official from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a scientist from the New Zealand Institute for Water and Atmosphere recently visited the FMC and commented that the Center has sufficient capabilities, comparable to those of European countries, to monitor and control IUU fishing activities.
In an effort to settle the European Union’s concern that Seoul has been ineffective in deterring IUU fishing activities by Korean vessels in West African waters, the Korean government imposed administrative sanctions against 22 Korean vessels based on reports from the European Union and the Environmental Justice Foundation. Based on the “three-strike” rule, the owners of the sanctioned vessels would lose their fishing licenses if violations occured twice more.
All these changes have been a good example of controlling IUU fishing activities through cooperative governance between a fishing nation, a coastal state and an NGO. We believe that the measures will help eliminate IUU fishing in the waters of West Africa.
It seems that nearly all of the European Union’s recommendations on prevention, deterrence and elimination of IUU fishing have been accomplished.
I believe this reflects the country’s genuine commitment to the fight against IUU fishing. I hope South Korea and the European Union can build a strong partnership to put an end to IUU fishing, and work together on improving relevant international fisheries norms.
By Kim Sung-gwi
Kim Sung-gwi is president of the Korea Maritime Institute. ― Ed.