In a diligent and ongoing effort to address concerns over illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, a delegation from the European Commission (EC) undertook a pivotal visit to Vietnam from October 10 to 18. This mission marked the fourth on-site examination and technical assessment conducted by the EC in response to the issuance of a “yellow card” to Vietnam back in 2017, alleging IUU fishing activities.
The primary focus of this inspection was to evaluate the extent to which Vietnam has implemented the EC’s recommendations regarding IUU fishing. Key areas of scrutiny encompassed tracking fishing vessel activities within Vietnamese waters, monitoring vessel arrivals and departures at ports, as well as scrutinizing their activities at sea. The examination also extended to tracing the origins of imported raw materials and seafood products.
Acknowledging Vietnam’s steadfast commitment to combating IUU fishing, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam (MARD) reported that the EC delegation was highly appreciative of the government’s unwavering resolve, guidance, and directives in combating IUU fishing. Notably, the EC commended Vietnam’s legal framework adjustments, emphasizing the nation’s substantial progress in addressing legal matters associated with IUU fishing.
Moreover, the EC mission recognized the transition from haphazard fishing practices to a more responsible approach within Vietnam. Local authorities have fortified their oversight of fishing vessels entering and exiting local ports, thus preventing unauthorized fishing expeditions and ensuring compliance with prescribed requirements, including the installation of comprehensive tracking and monitoring systems.
Crucially, the issue at hand has not been entirely resolved, with certain limitations and challenges persisting, as noted by MARD. One pivotal concern lies in the need for more rigorous enforcement at the local level concerning monitoring, control, and supervision of fishing vessel activities. The EC inspection team underscored the relatively low penalty rates for IUU fishing violations, signaling the necessity for stricter enforcement.
In light of these findings, the EC delegation urged coastal authorities across the nation to rigorously enforce the legal regulations outlined in the Law on Fisheries. This includes a particular focus on the installation of vessel monitoring systems (VMS), vessel registration, licensing, and marking. Furthermore, local vessels were explicitly prohibited from engaging in unauthorized fishing activities in foreign waters, ensuring there is no disconnection with fishing boats for extended periods, and eliminating the practice of “three-no’s” for ships, which refers to no inspection, no registration, and no license.
Virginijus Sinkevicius, the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries, reiterated the EC’s commitment to supporting Vietnam’s endeavors in developing ecological, circular, and low-emission agriculture, with the aim of transforming livelihoods within the fishing industry. This strategic partnership aspires to position Vietnam as a global exemplar in sustainable fisheries development and biodiversity conservation.
The ultimate verdict on the removal of the “yellow card” warning for Vietnam will depend on the inspection results, which the mission will duly report to the EC’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. It is anticipated that the next EC inspection will take place in May or June 2024, ensuring that Vietnam’s progress in addressing IUU fishing concerns remains under the vigilant watch of international authorities.