Seafood exporters fear new US, EU regulations on illegal fishing
The United States has introduced regulations related to fighting IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing. These will affect imported seafood products as of January 1, 2018. — Photo vasep
HÀ NỘI — The EU is set to rule this month on the Vietnamese seafood industry’s compliance with its regulations on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and the US has just announced new rules relating to the same issue. Facing scrutiny from two significant seafood markets, Vietnamese seafood exporters are anxious, and worried that both their fellow companies and the Government aren’t doing enough to meet importers’ requirements.
Earlier this year, the EU fisheries working group announced that Việt Nam is likely to receive a yellow card from EU inspectors, particularly if it did not fulfill IUU fishing requirements related to anti-mining. Such a ruling could have far-reaching implications for the country’s seafood exporters. September 30 was the deadline for Việt Nam to show improvements on the requirements, and the ruling will be issued at the meeting on October 20 by the EU mission to the Government Office, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, VASEP and some agencies related to IUU.
A yellow card creates nervousness among EU retailers about seafood imported from that country, and they may look elsewhere to buy. Other import markets will also strengthen checks of seafood exported by that country. If a country gets a red card, its seafood products will be banned in the EU.
Chairman of Thuận Phước Seafood and Trading JSC Trần Văn Linh said that although the company’s exports of seafood to EU account for less than 10 per cent of the total export value, the company has still been working with other enterprises to fight against IUU fishing.
“If the EU issues a ‘yellow card’ to Việt Nam, it will affect the image and reputation of Việt Nam’s seafood export in the world market,” said Linh.
According to a list provided by the Việt Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), 57 Vietnamese businesses have committed to combat IUU fishing. These enterprises will only purchase seafood from licensed fishing vessels and only import legally exploited seafood. The list includes several businesses that have never exported to the EU, but want to demonstrate the Vietnamese fishing community’s commitment to addressing the problem.
But some of the committed companies say their efforts alone aren’t enough. Võ Quang Vinh, deputy general director of Cầu Tre Company, which has been exporting seafood to the EU for over 20 years and joined the VASEP list, said State action is necessary to protect the reputation of Vietnamese seafood.
“The EU does not just judge based on a few firms but on the whole community, including many other businesses that are exporting to the EU,” said Vinh. “Therefore, if only some enterprises in the process of participation in the assessment do not meet the requirements will affect the entire seafood businesses.”
He said the State needed to enact clear regulations to guarantee that the origin of fishing vessels is easily traceable.
Experts from VASEP said that businesses need to set up an alliance to meet the requirements of food safety, traceability and operational transparency at every step of the seafood production process.
At the same time, enterprises should strictly implement internal regulations, such as not buying seafood from illegal fishing vessels, fishing without licences or fishing with prohibited tools. Such regulations can protect the reputation of Việt Nam seafood in the world market.
Speed is important, as the US is also set to enact new regulations to eliminate IUU-caught seafood among its imports. The American regulations are part of the Seafood Import Monitoring Programme, which establishes reporting and recordkeeping requirements to prevent IUU-caught and or misrepresented seafood from entering US commerce, with the goal of protecting the national economy, global food security and the sustainability of shared ocean resources. The US regulations will take effect on January 1, 2018.
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The major import items were shrimp, small octopus and Juichi cuttlefish, while frozen products accounted for 69.6 percent and processed products 30.3 percent.