Vanuatu Hopeful EU Will Lift Sanction For Illegal Fishing

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‘Yellow flagged’ since 2012, country has made tremendous progress

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, march 25, 2014) – Minister of Fisheries, David Tosul and his delegation is presently in Brussels, Belgium on the final leg of negotiations with the European Union (EU) to uplift the yellow card served on Vanuatu in November 2012 over Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Daily Post was informed the outcome of the mission is "all positive".

In 2010 the EU resolved to wage war on illegal fishing both at home and abroad. Vanuatu was served a yellow card along with seven (7) other States of the ACP in November 2012 over IUU issues notably with a view to curbing ‘unlawful practices at sea’.

According to Madam Maria Damanaki – EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries – ‘illegal fishing harms us on many levels. It puts additional, unchecked, pressure on fish stocks; it undermines our conservation efforts; it disrupts markets with unfair competition; it works against law-abiding fishermen; and it harms all coastal communities, especially those in developing countries. It is a crime against the environment and a crime against us all’.

Vanuatu has to date undertaken three technical missions to the EU to address various issues raised by the EU on the subject of IUU fishing. Since November 2012, the Government of Vanuatu has undertaken extraordinary steps particularly through its Department of Fisheries to addressing this global issue in close cooperation with the EU. The visit of Hon. Tosul in Brussels this week underscores strong political will and support from the Government of Vanuatu to bringing this important matter to rest.

During their joint meeting on Wednesday 19th March, the Hon. Tosul requested the EU through Madam Laurie Evans – EU Director General in-charge of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) – to uplift the Yellow Card served on Vanuatu since late 2012. Madam Evans positively upheld Vanuatu’s very good standing and confirmed the EU’s appreciation of the ‘laudable progress’ made by Vanuatu thus far and that this request would be honored in the immediate future.

The key legal requirement Vanuatu needed to confirm was a date for its ratification of the revised Fisheries Bill and to reviewing its membership to a couple of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), to which the Hon. Minister confirmed dates to have these issues cleared by. The new Fisheries Bill, which is the key legal document of concern, will be tabled in the first sitting of Parliament in Vanuatu in April 2014 (next month).

There is strong positive indication that the EU would be lifting the yellow flag against Vanuatu in May 2014. Vanuatu stands a big chance of obtaining additional budgetary resources from the EU to support its work within the Fisheries sector in assisting to implement various national measures, policies and plans of action to address implementation aspects on the IUU case.

It is also envisaged that on the margins of the upcoming ACP/EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Port Vila in October 2014, Vanuatu will be given an opportunity to share its experiences on how it has addressed the EU IUU issue to support several neighboring Pacific Island Countries which will be served their yellow cards in the immediate future.

Besides his meeting on the IUU issue, the Hon. Minister also held other strategic bilateral meetings with a number of people and key organizations to maximize support to Vanuatu in other areas.

One key project that attracted a very productive and fruitful meeting relates to a major Pacific Coconut Project that has been the subject of discussions in Brussels over the past four years with the leadership of Vanuatu’s very own Ambassador to the EU/ACP, H.E. Mr. Roy M Joy. This project, once established, is very likely to create tremendous impact on the lives of rural farmers throughout the entire Vanuatu archipelago. Arrangements are underway through the Ministry of Agriculture to get this huge project underway in the very near future.

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